Still no contract at Freightliner plant

CLEVELAND — United Auto Workers union members and Daimler Trucks North America are still trying to hash out a new contract at the Freightliner plant in Cleveland.

A June 21 deadline has come and gone. The existing contract has been extended indefinitely, said Steve Barber, shop chairman for UAW Local 3520.

Barber said he could not comment further. Union President Corey Hill could not be reached.

Contract negotiations also continue at Daimler plants in Mount Holly and Gastonia, a Daimler spokesman said.

“The parties have extended the current agreement and continue to negotiate while all plants remain in full operation,” said David Giroux, public relations director for Daimler. “DTNA considers the negotiations process to be a confidential matter between the parties.”

Workers at Daimler’s Portland, Ore. plant recently ended a three-week strike over wages after Daimler and union members compromised on an hourly raise. Wages had been frozen for four years, and United Auto Workers sent a statement of support to strikers in Oregon.

The unions sought a $1.95 increase on an average $23.33-an-hour wage, while Daimler offered a $1.30-an-hour pay raise, according to The Oregonian newspaper. The new contract terms included a $1.55 an hour raise and lasts 40 months, the newspaper reported.

About 725 workers returned to their factory shifts July 22. They had been on strike since July 1. The Oregon plant manufactures about 30 Western Star trucks a day.

Wages aren’t the issue in Cleveland, employees said during a union rally in May.

At the time, Hill said he wanted Daimler to bring back the 340 workers laid off from the Cleveland on April 8. He said the union also wanted the company to run two full shifts and guarantee a higher number of trucks made in Cleveland, which would provide job security for employees.

Several workers at the rally said job security and the truck-build rate were their major concerns, not wages. Top pay at the Cleveland plant is about $24 per hour, which was frozen in 2010, the last time the union and Daimler negotiated a contract.

Employees said they also want a pension and health care coverage when they retire.

Daimler currently guarantees an average of 60 new trucks per day at the Cleveland plant, Hill said in May, but the Freightliner plant in Saltillo, Mexico runs three shifts and makes 165 trucks per day.

Daimler could move some of those orders to Cleveland and put more people to work in the United States, Hill said.

“We are trying to fight for every job we possibly can,” he said.

Daimler has a 43 percent market share in the commercial truck industry, thanks in large part to the highly rated Cleveland plant, Barber said in May.

“To be No. 1 in a lot of areas, they are treating their employees here like No. 101, and that’s not fair,” Barber said. “It’s called social injustice.”

Daimler’s truck division — the maker of Freightliner and Western Star — reported $566 million in profit in the company’s second quarter, the company announced in July. Revenues in the division were up $500 million to $10.4 billion.

Retail sales in the United States rose 24 percent to more than 30,000 units, with orders rising 41 percent to 27,000 units.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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