A General Motors production plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., is planning to begin hiring new workers early next year. The plant is gearing up to produce the Chevrolet Equinox. The catch? New workers can expect to make about half of the industry standard wage.
Saturn plant re-tooled
The plant opened officially with the pushing of a big red ceremonial button a few days after thanksgiving. The plant has been used in the past to assemble Saturns. The event is being hailed by many as a return of the auto industry to recession-ravaged central Tennessee.
Hundreds to be hired
General Motors is spending about $250 million on the effort. For the first phase of production, the automaker plans to hire about 700 workers. About 1,200 more will be added later for the 2015 model year production. According to the Columbia Herald, Mike Herron, of the United Auto Workers Local 1853 said that the first wave of hiring should begin in the second quarter of 2012.
New hires get second tier pay
But there is a catch. In order to make the deal happen, the United Auto Workers union had to agree to new-hire plant employees stating at on $15.78 an hour. That is about half of the prevailing industry wage for staring employees.
In order to make ends meet, the automaker wants to adopt the two-tiered pay system that has become a standard in the airline industry. The system allows for some employees to be paid on a different scale than others, even though they may be doing the same work.
Compromise necessary, UAW says
Bob King, president of the UAW, expressed displeasure with the decision, which compromises many of the union’s core principles. But he says that there seemed to be no alternative. It was this, or the jobs would not exist at all. The new plant, according to King, gives the union a foothold in the region, and it can build support from there.
Depressed workers welcome opening
Others welcome the compromise. The plant will bring solid employment for hundreds in the region who desperately need it.
When the Saturn plant closed two years ago, hundreds of employees were displaced to plants in Flint, Mich. Many were forced into a double life, commuting between Michigan for the work week, and Tennessee to be with their families on the weekends. These workers are depending on the automaker to honor its promised “return rights” when the re-opened plant goes into production.
But those looking for new-hire production positions will have to be patient. While hiring has already begun for some management positions, applications are not yet being accepted for hourly production positions.