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Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 10 News List

American Axle boosts union workers' wage offer

AP , DETROIT, MICHIGAN

American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc boosted its wage offer and increased the payments it will give workers to take a wage cut as part of a tentative agreement that could settle an 11-week strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, a person briefed on the deal said on Saturday.

American Axle had been offering a pay cut from US$28 to US$17 per hour for production workers, with a US$90,000 wage “buy down” over three years to help workers at the auto parts supplier make the transition to lower pay.

The person, who asked not to be identified because the deal has not yet been presented to workers, said the agreement reached on Friday includes pay of US$18.50 per hour and increases the size of the buy down.

The deal is similar to what the UAW agreed to with auto parts maker Delphi Corp last year, the person said. In that deal, Delphi agreed to pay workers “buy downs” of US$105,000 over three years.

Non-core workers, which are those who are not involved in actual manufacturing, would be paid US$14.55 per hour, the person said, while skilled trades workers would get US$26 per hour.

The deal could end a bitter strike that has dragged on since Feb. 26, crippling production at about 30 General Motors Corp assembly plants in the US, Canada and Mexico, and causing thousands of layoffs at other parts supply companies.

Strike captain Duane Thompson said ratification would depend on whether workers believe they can get a better offer. He thinks a better deal than what’s been reported can be negotiated.

“There’s a bunch of us who don’t like it because we feel we deserve more, or just leave what we have alone. But don’t take away from us,” Thompson said.

Thompson also said he worries about the impact this contract could have on future contracts for all UAW workers.

“If we pass it, it will make people look funny at us: ‘Did you do everything in your power to win, or did you just give up the fight?’” Thompson said.

Skilled trades worker Doug Sherrill said on Saturday that union workers are skeptical.

“We’re happy we got a tentative agreement, but is it going to pass? The way people feel around here is it’s going to be a tough sell,” Sherrill said.

UAW workers were picketing on Saturday and plan to continue until an agreement is ratified, but they are feeling the pinch of living on strike pay for 12 weeks, non-production worker Leo McGucki said.

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