iMail for Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Recession Forces Historic GM Bankruptcy

General Motors, once the world’s largest automaker, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week in a move that underscores the historic nature of the current recession.

“The IAM commends all who are making such extraordinary sacrifices to help GM survive these unprecedented economic times,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “Thanks to the sacrifices of tens of thousands of UAW members and retirees, GM has a chance to emerge from bankruptcy. Had they not acted, the impact on the American economy would be much greater.”

In the contract ratified by UAW members last week, active employees agreed to extraordinary cost-saving measures, including pay changes, the elimination of cost-of-living adjustments; reduced holidays; substantially scaled back overtime and relief time rules; frozen wages for entry-level employees and an increase in the percentage of workers employed at the much lower rate. Additionally, the company was allowed to hire part-time employees with reduced wages and benefits; certain job security programs were suspended and supplemental unemployment benefits were scaled back for laid-off workers.

In addition, GM will also be allowed to replace over half of the contributions that it owed to the retiree health care trust fund with stock, and the remainder of the contributions will be replaced with a $2.5 billion note and $6.5 billion in preferred stock.

“Based on all of the foregoing,” says a statement on the union’s website, “the UAW submits it is abundantly clear that active and retired workers have made enormous sacrifices to facilitate the restructuring of GM.”

The federal government will take a 60 percent majority ownership of GM, with the UAW owning 17.5 percent and existing bondholders and the Canadian government taking up the remainder.

New Flight Plan Needed for Air Canada

Air Canada’s largest union, the IAM, says the carrier must change the way it operates if it wants an agreement. That’s the consensus from three IAM bargaining committees who met recently with the company. The contracts for machinists, pilots and flight attendants at Air Canada are set to expire on June 30.

“There has to be paradigm shift by the management of Air Canada and the Board of Directors of ACE Aviation,” said District 140 President Chuck Atkinson. “We are the largest stakeholders in this airline and it’s time Robert Milton and his Board realize it’s the workers and not the shareholders who are its most valuable asset. Management must be prepared to include our members as full partners in this airline.”

The IAM represents more than ten thousand workers at Air Canada including heavy and line aircraft maintenance mechanics, cargo agents, millwrights, electricians, inspectors, technical writers, baggage handlers, instructors, cabin groomers, aircraft cleaners, logistics, supply, clerical and finance personnel.

“We are willing to work with Air Canada and the other unions and the retirees to ensure that the pension plan is protected,” added Atkinson. “Our members are tired of being ignored, we want input in the control of our future and the first step toward a brighter future for this airline is management’s acceptance of that right.”

IAM and IF Metall Hold Bilateral Talks

Coordinating organizing tactics and sharing information about collective bargaining with global corporations were two key objectives of the historic 2007 alliance agreement between the IAM and the Swedish Metalworkers Union, IF Metall. At a series of recent meetings in Gothenburg, Sweden, leaders from both unions met and added a new goal for their alliance: how best to protect their members from the worldwide recession and those corporations or individuals who would seek to profit from it.

“These meetings provide a good opportunity to exchange ideas and to continue our efforts to achieve tangible results to the challenges of globalization,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger at a meeting with IF Metall President Stefan Lofven. “Trans-national corporations conduct their business with little regard for international borders. It is imperative that we communicate and coordinate our efforts with our international partners as well.”

In addition to planning strategies for specific organizing campaigns and contract negotiations, the alliance partners reviewed international trade policies and the efforts to rein in obscene executive compensation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Minnesota Machinists Complete Apprenticeship Training

Three members of Local 1037 in Hopkins, MN, who are employed at Eaton Hydraulics in Eden Prairie, MN, became the first in the nation to complete a new apprentice program conducted by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

Dan Follmer became the nation’s first NIMS Certified Machine Tool Maintenance Technician and Goum Tham became the first NIMS Certified Tool and Die Maker. Eaton’s Training Director Ron Krueger became one of the first to be certified as a company training coordinator under the newly developed NIMS program.

The program was developed by Eaton in cooperation with the Minnesota Office of Apprenticeship with technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor and with the approval of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The program is overseen by a Joint Committee comprised of management and union representatives and key employees from each of the three apprenticeship areas.  

Buffenbarger Honors Malentacchi at IMF Congress

At the recent meeting of the International Metalworkers Federation Congress, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger delivered a moving tribute to IMF General Secretary Marcello Malentacchi, who is retiring after serving as the federation’s leader for over 20 years. “For over 40 years, Marcello has been on the frontlines, fighting the good fight, keeping the faith, and bringing us together,” said Buffenbarger. “And through it all, he has displayed the grace, dignity, and courage that became the hallmark of the International Metal Workers Federation.” 

The IMF Congress unanimously elected Jyrki Raina to serve as its new General Secretary. Raina formerly served as Nordic IN General Secretary. He began his trade union work in Finland and for the last six years has coordinated the Nordic unions’ activities in Europe and at the global level.

For additional information about the IMF, go to: