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Published: Tuesday, 10/2/2001

UAW mum on strike vote at Jeep but says problems are being tackled


The union representing Toledo Jeep Assembly hourly workers was mum yesterday about whether a threatened strike vote will occur, but a top official said labor and management officials are addressing problems at the plant.

United Auto Workers Local 12 gave DaimlerChrysler AG notice Sept. 11 that members would take a strike vote in 15 working days unless jobs were reassigned based on seniority, parts-stamping dies were returned, high-level health and safety grievances were addressed, and other changes were made.

That deadline has passed, but Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower declined to comment yesterday on a potential strike vote.

The union's Jeep chairman, Nick Vuich, did not return repeated calls for comment last week and yesterday.

“Nick and his committee are working through the issues, although right now our main focus is on our nation's tragedy,” said Mr. Baumhower, referring to the attacks on New York and Washington that occurred the same day Local 12 gave its notice.

DaimlerChrysler, meanwhile, continued to maintain its silence. “If we do have any issues, we'll work through them internally,” automaker spokesman Trevor Hale said.

Heavy overtime, questions about job security, and outsourcing have caused unrest at the plant, including the new Toledo North Assembly factory that has been working 10-hour days and many Saturdays to keep up with Liberty demand. About 1,770 of 5,650 temporary and permanent employees were laid off after the automaker stopped making the Jeep Cherokee and curbed Wrangler production this summer.

The union had said management took away joint programs, including a type of job-sharing plan to let higher-seniority workers voluntarily take one or two-week layoffs in place of lower-seniority workers. In a letter to its members, the union said the programs were taken away after a Blade article outlined the plant's labor unrest and potential for a strike vote, and management blamed the union for the story.

Mr. Baumhower said yesterday that the job-sharing plan has begun.

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