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Published: Sunday, 5/18/2008

American Axle increases offers for wages, buy-downs

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Machinist Scott Herzog pickets outside the American Axle headquarters in Detroit. Striking workers are to receive details of a proposed settlement beginning today. Machinist Scott Herzog pickets outside the American Axle headquarters in Detroit. Striking workers are to receive details of a proposed settlement beginning today.
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DETROIT - American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. boosted its wage offer and increased the payments it will give workers to take a wage cut as part of a tentative agreement that could settle an 11-week strike by the United Auto Workers union, a person briefed about the deal said yesterday.

American Axle had been offering a pay cut from $28 to $17 per hour for production workers, with a $90,000 wage "buy-down" over three years to help workers make the transition to lower pay.

The person, who asked not to be identified because the deal has not yet been presented to workers, said the tentative agreement reached Friday includes pay of $18.50 per hour and increases the size of the buy-down.

The deal is similar to what the UAW agreed to with auto parts maker Delphi Corp. last year, the person said.

In that deal, Delphi agreed to pay workers "buy-downs" of $105,000 over three years.

Noncore workers, those who aren't involved in actual manufacturing, would be paid $14.55 per hour, the person said, while skilled trades workers would get $26 per hour.

American Axle confirmed Friday night that both sides had agreed on a deal, but details weren't released.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the American Axle bargaining committee voted to recommend the agreement to members, who would get details starting today.

The agreement, which must be voted on by about 3,600 workers at five plants in New York and Michigan, includes the closure of American Axle's Detroit and Tonawanda, N.Y., forge operations.

It has a separate but lower pay scale for American Axle's operations in Three Rivers, Mich., the person said.

The deal could end a bitter strike that has dragged on since Feb. 26, crippling production at about 30 General Motors Corp. assembly plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and causing thousands of layoffs at other parts supply companies.

UAW Local 235 President Adrian King would not comment on specifics.

He said the deal was hard-fought and the best the union could do under the economic circumstances and amid company threats to move work to other countries.

"We did all we could to keep the work here," Mr. King said yesterday. "I do feel that this is the very best that the UAW could have achieved with this company." Mr. King said he is sure American Axle would have no qualms about moving work elsewhere.



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