“Plan A is suspended again!” "We just got it back and now we have another mechanical breakdown of more than four hours." "How many units do we have to make up this time?" " I’m so sick of working ten hours." "If we had enough skilled trades people we could do proper maintenance and not just band-aid everything as we put out fire after fire." "Heck, on the days the temps aren’t here all of the team leaders are on the line, and we can’t even get an emergency bathroom break." "Yeah, Joe is on sick leave again, and so-and-so used another FMLA day!" "We’re always short on help, and it’s not even vacation season yet!"
Sound familiar? Every GM manufacturing employee has either said it or heard it. Manpower shortages plague all assembly plants and shop chairmen in North America. Ever since the bankruptcy it seems to be the normal mode of operation. The company has returned to profitability, but they’re running like there’s no tomorrow. After receiving bailouts, givebacks and tax breaks, they are abusing the use of temporary employees rather than being job creators. By shedding all their excess capacity, GM learned to build more with less, and they found it more efficient to run the remaining plants at full volume. When we had three good selling products, for the first time in our long history, we were putting cars out the door 24 hours a day. The three-shift operation meant even though demand was high enough to warrant the maximum number of Saturdays to be scheduled, each shift could work no more than 8 hours a day. When the Acadia went to Spring Hill we went down to two shifts, but we still have enough demand from the other two to require, at times, 20 hours a day and 2 out of 3 Saturdays.This was never meant to go on for a prolonged period, but it has. All plants have been taxing their workforce and are experiencing the same problems with sick leaves, FMLA, absenteeism and manpower shortages. Manpower is one of the key issues in upcoming contract negotiations. Along with health care, temporary employees and product allocation. Even though we’re tired of the overtime, this may be a good problem to have. The state of transportation is soon to see a transformation. Not only in the way we build cars but the types of cars we build.
Leaps in technology, computer capability and 3D printing have allowed new tasks to be automated. The highly regarded McKinsey report, which follows trends in industry, warns of massive job losses due to automation. It states that half of all jobs can be automated, and in 50 years they will be. 38% of all US jobs are at high risk of being automated in the next fifteen years. Here’s what new technology means to future jobs. For every ten manufacturing jobs we will have in the future, seven are not yet developed. Another way to look at this is that 65% of children currently in grade school will work in jobs that don't yet exist.
At the same time, we are experiencing a change in mobility, or the way people get around. Uber, Lyft, scooters, ride sharing and autonomous shuttles present challenges to car manufacturers. After only token efforts to produce electric vehicles in the past, GM has now made a commitment to bring 20 all electric cars to the market by 2023. Automakers globally will invest $300 billion in Electric and autonomous vehicles including $11 billion at Ford and $10.5 billion at FCA. The advantages of producing Electric Vehicles (EV’s) over traditional Internal combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles are obvious. ICE vehicles have; engines, transmissions exhaust and fuel systems that EV’s don’t. EV’s have less mechanical complexity and 80% fewer moving parts requiring less labor to manufacture. Other advantages to manufacturers include a 50% reduction in footprint, 50% reduction in capital investment and 30% reduction in hours per unit. 35,000 plus members are at risk as ICE vehicles are replaced by EV’s.
At Lansing Delta Township, we are fortunate to have products that are hot sellers with a good profit margin. We should never forget though, that only a couple of years ago Lordstown was a three-shift operation. It is imperative in upcoming contract talks that we bargain to secure strategic new products. We need to campaign to insource new work, as well as obtaining apprenticeships and job training in future technologies.