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Local Delphi union backs contract
Workers voted to approve deal that will close 2 Limestone County plants

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com 340-2435

Members of United Auto Workers Local 2195 voted Thursday to approve a contract that calls for the closing of the Limestone County Delphi plants where they work.

The vote was 508 (59 percent) in favor of the contract and 353 (41 percent) against. The plants are slated to close in March 2009, with some layoffs beginning immediately.

The local vote is not controlling, with a majority vote of all UAW-Delphi employees required.

Local 2195 President Vaughn Goodwin said Thursday night he had talked to several other local presidents, and all reported votes in favor of the UAW-recommended contract.

UAW said it would release final results compiling the 17 local elections from across the nation on Friday.

"I'm not surprised," said Goodwin. "It was not an easy decision, but International UAW did a good job negotiating, given what they had to work with. It was the best result from a tough situation."

A vote against the contract would have left the Limestone County plants' fates up to a bankruptcy court.

In a letter to workers, Goodwin said leaving the decision to the bankruptcy court would be a disaster.

"Bankruptcy is a prime example of the corporate hogs feeding at the trough," he wrote. "Coupled with the additional challenge of a federal bankruptcy judge who caters to corporate interest, the situation at Delphi has been an uphill climb."

The agreement provided that 300 Limestone County employees could "flow back" to General Motors' Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. The offer applied to those employees who have been with Delphi since before it spun off from GM in 1999.

Spring Hill is about 85 miles from the Limestone County plants, and several workers said they would try to commute in car pools rather than relocate.

Other Delphi employees with hire dates prior to its bankruptcy filing in October 2005, may apply for GM openings and, if hired, would retain their seniority.

The UAW agreement lowers wages for many longtime workers from about $27 per hour to a pay scale for all workers that runs between $14 and $18.50. The agreement entitles employees hired before the spinoff to a "buy down" payment of $105,000, paid in three annual lump sums.

The agreement gives those who did not accept a previously offered buyout offer another chance. In return for their resignations, employees with 10 years or more in seniority would receive $140,000. Pre-spinoff hires with less than 10 years seniority would receive $70,000.

The local plant, which employed more than 2,000 before Delphi declared bankruptcy Oct. 8, 2005, has lost more than half its workers to buyouts designed to cut Delphi labor costs.

Since the buyouts took effect, Delphi has hired additional workers, at lower wages, under a two-tiered plan negotiated with UAW.

Under the agreement, the recent hires who are laid off are entitled to severance pay of $1,500 per month of employment.

In a bankruptcy filing last year, Delphi said it would close the Limestone County plant in January 2008 if it had no buyers.

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