New union ads court support in Delphi dispute

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

The International Union of Electronics Workers-CommunicationsWorkers of America (IUE-CWA) is pleading its case to the public inadvertisements placed in newspapers where Delphi Packard ElectricSystems has plants.

One advertisement was placed in The DAILY LEADER on Tuesday. Theadvertisements, submitted and paid for by the national union, referto the “terrible treatment of workers and retirees” and charge thecompany with negotiating in bad faith by going to the courts tohave labor contracts canceled.

Lindsey Williams, corporate affairs manager for Delphi, saidWednesday morning he had not seen the newspaper advertisements.

“How interesting,” he said after listening to the text of theadvertisement. “I can tell you one thing we won’t do is negotiatein the papers.”

The Delphi spokesman said IUE-CWA is clearly making an attemptto appeal to the “heartstrings” of the public to influence them tobe sympathetic to the union’s side of the negotiations.

“We must be competitive in the market. Today we cannot. Nocompany can survive in that situation,” Williams said. “Without aDelphi, what is there to talk about?”

The move to the courts, he said, was not designed to circumventthe bargaining process, as alleged in the advertisements.

“Delphi is committed to achieving a consensual agreement at thebargaining table with our unions and General Motors. We believe thecourt has established sufficient time to bargain our differences,”Williams said. “Even though the court may permit rejection of ourcollective bargaining agreements, we plan to reject such agreementsonly if we believe all reasonable avenues for a consensualagreement have been exhausted.”

The company and unions are frustrated with the lack of progressin negotiations ongoing in Detroit that have lasted for weeks.Delphi is in the midst of reorganization and restructuring in itsbid to avoid a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Henry Newman, a union representative in the local branch of theIUE-CWA, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Detroit, thatthe union believes the company has plans to move many of theiroperations overseas, where the low cost of labor more than offsetsthe increase in shipping and other fees.

“I think what (national is) doing is trying to get people tounderstand that we’re losing jobs to overseas markets,” hesaid.

Newman said labor statistics have shown that American laborerscannot work for the amount of money being paid to overseaslaborers.

“That’s what we’re up against in the industry,” he said. “Ourgoal is to protect as many employees as we can and prevent it frombeing as tough as we can on our members and communities.”

The Brookhaven plant is one of the most productive in the Delphiinventory, Newman said.

“We’ve got a good plant and a good workforce, but there’s onlyso much you can do against the low cost of labor overseas,” hesaid.

Williams said the U.S. operations will remain in the U.S.

“We are not asking any more from our unions than what they areproviding to our competitors,” he said.

Delphi has said it will sell or close 21 of its 29 U.S. plantsin the reorganization. Plants in Brookhaven and Clinton have beenlisted as two of the eight “core automotive facilities” that willremain open. A third Mississippi plant, in Laurel, did not make thelist.

Newman said the while it may be true that the Brookhaven plantwill remain open, Delphi still has plans that would adverselyaffect the local facility.

“It hasn’t been too many years ago we had 540 workers. Now wehave about 514. Their plan is for us to be down to 350 people,” hesaid. “We’re trying to keep every job we can.”

Zeb Wells, president of the local IUE-CWA union, is also inDetroit participating in the negotiations, but was unavailable forcomment.