Union leader hails new agreement with Delphi

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2007

The top union official in Brookhaven for Delphi-Packard ElectricSystems said he is pleased with an agreement – ratified late lastweek – that will keep the local plant open.

McNair Smith, president of Local 718 of the International Unionof Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and FurnitureWorkers-Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA), said theagreement between it, the company, and General Motors will keep theBrookhaven plant open and also establishes a new wage scale foremployees.

The wage scale is significantly less than the $14.50 to $29 perhour workers were paid a year ago, but will enable the plant toremain open, Smith said. Workers with seniority, who were at thehigher end of the wage scale, take the largest hit in lostsalary.

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“We had the option to fight to keep higher wages or finding apackage that would keep the Brookhaven plant open,” Smith said.”After consulting with my co-workers and the people in the Chamber(of Commerce), the decision was pretty easy. We agreed to a lesserpackage in order to save 300 production jobs here inBrookhaven.”

At one time, Delphi had 28 operating plants scattered across theUnited States. But following the bankruptcy, only three remain – aplant in Warren, Ohio, and Mississippi plants in Clinton andBrookhaven, he said.

A year ago this month, 359 of the approximately 450 employees atDelphi accepted a severance package rather than struggle throughthe unknowns surrounding the auto parts maker’s bankruptcy.

Among those who left were all of the “traditional” employees onthe top tier of a three-tier pay system. The pay of traditionalemployees was $27 to $29 per hour, Smith said.

Ten “Progressive Hire Plan,” or second-tier employees, chose tostay, but will see a significant loss in wages from the $26 to $28per hour they had been receiving. Forty-seven third-tier, or”Concept 2000,” employees chose to remain and risk their $14.50 perhour wages last year.

Under the new agreement, Traditional employees will make $16.38per hour, with a few exceptions made for the employees who chose tostay, who will be paid $16.50 per hour, he said.

Employees under the Progressive Hire Plan have the option of a$10 per hour wage with increased benefits or $15 per hour with a”bare bones” benefit package, Smith said.

New hires and Concept 2000 workers will receive an hourly wageof $10 and basic benefits, he said.

However, all employees who stayed with the company through thenegotiations will receive a buyout to help them adjust to the newwages. They will receive a lump sum payment based on their previoushourly wage, a 3 percent lump sum bonus in 2008 and 2009 and a 3percent wage increase this year and in 2010.

“The buyout to lesser wages covers a three-year span duringwhich they will draw wages under the new system,” Smith said.

The agreement also leaves room and opportunity for growth towardhigher wages and better benefits in the future, he said.

In addition to wages, the agreement guarantees the Brookhavenplant will retain a minimum of 280 employees through 2012. GM hascommitted to providing contracts to the plant for the same timeperiod.

“The sourcing (from GM) is a big plus to us because iteliminates the bidding process,” Smith said. “We used to have tobid for contracts to keep us in operation. There’s a commitment nowthat we’ll have this work for the life of the agreement.”

The Brookhaven and Clinton plants both manufacture plasticmolding, electrical systems and electrical components for the autogiant.