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Saturn contract amended.

Members of the United Automobile Workers at Saturn Corp. recently ratified amendments to their unique, living" (open-ended) labor contract, covering some 4,700 production and maintenance workers, the vast majority of whom work in the automaker's Spring Hill, TN, plant. The original agreement, which does not have a set expiration date, was signed in 1985. Under terms of the initial agreement, the contract was to be renewed within 6 months after the end of the first year of production of the car line, which was started on July 30, 1990. (Saturn is a subsidiary of General Motors Corp.)

Under terms of the renewal, monthly pay for operating engineers would increase from $2,332 to $2,698, and for skilled technicians, the only other job classification at the plant, from $2,685 to $3,104. The amended agreement also provided for phasing in a risk/reward concept" in lieu of the "risk concept" under the original agreement. Under the new concept, the proportion of pay that is tied to attainment of training, quality, and production goals would be set at 5 percent in 1992 instead of the current level of 20 percent, and would be increased by an additional 5 percentage points each year until reaching 20 percent by 1995. In addition, the rotational supplement would be increased from 5.75 percent to 6 percent for workers rotating on a 4-day, 10hour schedule, and to 8 percent for employees who rotate across 24 hours on straight time and spend at least 60 percent of their work time on the night shift.

Changes were made in the pension area to give employees with 10 years or more of GM credited service as of January 1, 1988, or as of their Saturn hire date, the option of remaining under an improved version of their defined contribution plan or being covered under the General Motors-United Automobile Workers hourly pension plan. Employees with fewer than 10 years of service would be covered under the defined contribution plan.) Enhancements of the defined contribution plan included an increase in Saturn's contribution rate from 5 percent to 8 percent; deposit of contribution funds on a monthly basis, without a requirement for employee contributions; and a guaranteed yearly minimum rate of return on contribution funds.

Other terms include the establishment of a jointly managed fund, with company contributions set at 1 percent of an employee's base pay, to defray future health insurance premium costs for employees with fewer than 10 years of GM credited service; improvements in optional dependent life insurance coverage; improvements in the savings plan (the company's 3-percent match was converted to the defined pension program); the enhancement of transfer rights- prescheduling of the 1992 vacation shutdown for the weeks of July 20th and July 27; clarification of attendance guidelines; an agreement to establish a more timely problem resolution mechanism; the addition of January 2, 1992, as a holiday for employees working 4-day, 10-hour shifts; and, as an inducement to attract and maintain workers, the establishment of separation allowances, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000, for employees permanently separating from Saturn and GM.

The goal of Saturn is to eliminate the cost advantage of foreign small car manufacturers, particularly the Japanese, by giving management more flexibility to determine quality and production goals and the union more input through team management and representation on the board of directors.
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Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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