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DUNDEE -- Chrysler Group LLC may have a "no-strike" guarantee from the United Auto Workers on its national contract being negotiated in Detroit, but a change in scheduling has workers at the automaker's important engine plant in Dundee taking a strike authorization vote Sunday that could threaten production at several assembly plants if a strike is called.
Members of UAW Local 723 at Chrysler's Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance plant in Dundee will take the vote Sunday at their Monroe headquarters. The authorization does not mean a strike will occur ; it empowers the plant's union leadership to call one if it feels one is necessary.
The more than 400 hourly workers at the Michigan engine plant have a separate contract with Chrysler that expires Oct. 14, Local 723 Chairman Tom Zimmerman said. Those workers, who must have either an engineering background or a journeyman's card in a recognized craft to work on the line, are paid at a higher rate, equivalent to skilled trades workers in Chrysler's national contract with the union, and are not in the "two-tier" wage system in place in other Chrysler-UAW plants.
Negotiations between workers in Dundee and the automaker have not begun, but a main point of conflict is a scheduling system that has hourly employees switching weekly between the day and night shifts as part of a four-day, 10-hour work week, Mr. Zimmerman said. The rotating schedule allows Chrysler to significantly reduce overtime costs by providing more hours of production at straight-time rates, while the union contends the rotating schedule disrupts their ability to adjust to one shift or another, unnecessarily increasing fatigue.
Chrysler spokesman Jodi Tinson said the automaker would have no comment about the vote or upcoming talks with workers in Dundee.
The Monroe County plant is Chrysler's main source for fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines in vehicles ranging from the small Fiat 500 to the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger sedans. A disruption at the plant could impact Chrysler assembly workers in Belvidere, Ill., Sterling Heights, Mich., and Toluca, Mexico. Workers under Chrysler's national contract at the automaker's engine plant in Trenton, Mich., which makes the popular six-cylinder Pentastar and other engines, are also disputing the rotating schedule in their plant but are bound by the national agreement's "no-strike" provision.
Chrysler's national contract with the United Auto Workers expired Sept. 14, but both the automaker and the union have agreed to continue bargaining past the expiration date.