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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2007

Toledo Powertrain cooperation praised at conference

BY MARK REITER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

When the new six-speed transmission goes into production next year at General Motors Toledo Powertrain Plant, employees will move from the conventional assembly process to a team approach.

In adopting the concept, which has been in place at DaimlerChrysler AG's Toledo Jeep Assembly complex, Powertrain management and the United Auto Workers embarked on a partnership involving many hours of training and collective decision-making.

Working with management to improve efficiency is essential to keeping jobs in Toledo, said Joan Schrader, a member of the UAW launch team for the transmission.

"We are both riding in the same boat. We are looking for success and job security for UAW members and managers." Ms. Schrader said the union and manager team visited GM transmission plants in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Maryland to see the team concept in use.

She shared the stage with other members of the launch team at yesterday's 21st Conference on Labor-Management Cooperation in Nitschke Auditorium at the University of Toledo.

The unity of labor and management was among the examples presented during the program attended by about 200 people.

Brad Dodrill, a manager at the GM plant, said employee involvement in the planning and equal roles in decision-making have been vital. "The point is we held each other accountable."

GM is investing about $600 million and adding 400,000 square feet to the Alexis Road factory to build the smoother-operating transmission.

The daylong conference was organized by the Northwest Ohio Center for Labor-Management Cooperation, a nonprofit organization that promotes harmony between companies and unions.

The center presented the inaugural Joseph Tomasi Spirit Awards to Gerald Huber, a former Jeep plant manager, and Oscar Bunch, who retired last year as an officer of UAW Local 14 at Powertrain.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6096.



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