By: Joseph B. Espo
Flint Journal Labor Writer
"DEARBORN- DELEGATES FROM UNIONS REPRESENTING GENERAL MOTORS WORKERS AROUND
THE WORLD WERE GATHERING HERE TODAY TO DISCUSS AN INTERNATIONAL UNION RESPONSE TO WHAT THEY CALL GM’S WORLD STRATEGY."
Among topics to be discussed are a strategy on wages and how to deal with the introduction of new technology that
will save the automaker but could cost jobs.
The world council meeting
follows GM U.A.W. sub-councils and a national GM council earlier this week. Several of those sessions also were devoted to
In those meetings,
a group of Flint workers also began to try to raise support for earlier retirement, to be financed by savings obtained through
the introduction of new technology.
About 250 American
and Canadian members of the U.A.W., which hosted the conference sponsored by the International Metal workers Federation, joined
with trade unionists from 18 countries for the world council meeting
U.A.W. leaders have
said they are concerned both with foreign-car imports in the United States and the increased use in domestic cars of parts
supplied by overseas subsidiaries of U.S. automakers.
GM Chairman Roger Smith
said during a visit to Flint earlier this year that the questions for the U.A.W. to answer is whether it wants high wages
or employment for its members.
Smith said the only
alternative to wage relief by the union is having more jobs sent overseas.
secretary Herman Rebhan, in the call for the conference, said that the unions in different countries must try to equalize
the number of hours worked per year.
The IMF estimates that
workers in Belgium average 1671 hours a year; while in Brazil they work an average of 2688 hours. Rebhan said he also wants
the world federation to look at equalization of wage rates.
U.A.W. President Douglas
Fraser, U.A.W. Vice President and G.M. Department Director Owen Bieber, and Rebhan will address the opening session of the
conference. The rest of the two days will be taken up by reports of delegates from each country as well as the discussion
on new technology.
Flint area U.A.W. leaders
have voiced their concerns about job losses to other countries. Union officials at the Chevrolet Engine plant complained about
training a number of Mexicans, who will be supervisors in a plant that GM will open in Mexico.
addressed each of the sub-council meetings. Westfall’s program calls for some of the savings GM will achieve
through new technology to be placed into a fund to enable early retirement, additional cost-of-living on pensions, and increased
numbers of personal paid holidays.
The program also calls
for guaranteed job security after workers have reached a certain level of seniority.
Westfall also wants
to apply extra pension credits accumulated by workers who remain in their jobs after they are eligible for retirement to be
placed in a fund that would enable other workers to retire early.
a four-page tabloid and a handbook of information about the program. He said that the alternative to international communication
about new technology is an increasing struggle among workers in different countries for jobs.
The original push for
30-and-out came from a rank-and-file group based in Flint.
If the proposal is
to be a topic in negotiations, it will have to win resolutions of support from the sub-council and the national bargaining
council. The next series of sub council meetings will be held in September: the contract expires a year later.