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Published: Friday, 2/22/2002

Saturday shifts for Liberty to be pared

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Jeep Liberty workers this year will continue putting in 10-hour days after April, but they will scale back the number of mandatory Saturdays to one a month.

Workers at Toledo North Assembly Plant, who have worked heavy overtime for several months to build Libertys, previously were slated to start working nine-hour days with staggered breaks in April. That arrangement would have called back 250 to 300 laid off Toledo Jeep Assembly workers while tempering schedules and maintaining production.

Those workers still will be called back to fill in spots from others with more seniority accepting buyout packages or volunteering for temporary job-sharing layoffs this summer, said Nick Vuich, Jeep chairman for United Auto Workers Local 12, which represents workers at the plant.

Plus, workers won't take staggered breaks, and they will have more Saturdays free, Mr. Vuich said. The agreement, which union members approved this month, calls for working nine instead of 22 Saturdays starting in April.

“Any additional Saturdays will be strictly voluntary,” Mr. Vuich said.

Said Chrysler unit spokesman Michele Tinson: “We're very pleased with the agreement. We worked together on this.”

Workers last year threatened to strike after massive overtime and layoffs caused by the end of Cherokee production and cut in Wrangler output brought tensions to a head. About 1,770 of 5,650 permanent and temporary jobs were eliminated.

In December, union and management officials averted a strike and reached an agreement to call back the last 550 long-time workers on lay off by expanding buyouts, incorporating staggered breaks, and making Wrangler parts. Although some aspects of the agreement have changed, press-shop dies used to stamp parts will begin being installed in a couple of weeks, Mr. Vuich said.

About 120 workers remain on layoff as buyout offers and job-sharing schedules are finalized, Mr. Vuich said. More than 300 are working in the job-sharing program, where senior workers volunteer for temporary layoffs, and that number should grow to 450 this summer, he said.

Union and management officials continue to talk about health and safety issues as well as getting jobs for temporary workers at other Chrysler unit factories, such as the machining plant in Perrysburg Township, Mr. Vuich said. About 560 temporary workers were laid off.



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