The National Committee on Advanced Technology would meet quarterly and discuss how GM plans to implement new technologies, such as electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and 3D printing, and how they might impact on UAW jobs.
The UAW has previously expressed concern over the emerging popularity of electric vehicles, as they require fewer parts than an internal combustion engine vehicle. The Detroit News says conventional drivetrains can have as many as 20,000 parts, while an electric drivetrain can consist of fewer than 20. An electric vehicle doesn’t need items like multi-speed transmissions (GM recently closed two of its transmission plants in Michigan and Maryland) nor do they need radiators and exhaust systems.
Earlier this year, shortly after GM announced it would close several North American plants, GM CEO Mary Barra said the company was “transforming our workforce through salaried and executive reductions as we move to an all-electric future.”
While GM and the UAW are wise to at least consider the impact electric cars may have on the manufacturing sector, the shift to electric vehicles does not seem to be happening as rapidly as previously thought. With limited charging infrastructure in the United States and tepid demand, UAW jobs at engine and transmission plants aren’t under threat just yet. Still, considering the amount of jobs at engine and transmission plants that could be impacted by the eventual rise of such technology, the union must engage in dialogue with GM about its future product plans.
Autonomous vehicles may also have a negative impact on UAW jobs, as they will be designed to last longer and, as per GM’s predictions, won’t need items like a steering wheel or pedals. However, GM has failed to its self-imposed timeline for the launch of its Cruise self-driving taxi service, and the emergence of AVs also isn’t happening as rapidly as experts predicted.
GM’s UAW contract proposal, which is currently being voted on by union members, will see the automaker build several new electric vehicles at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Metro Detroit. This will include an electric GMC truck, an electric Hummer SUV and an electric Cadillac crossover—all built around its new BT1 EV platform. The UAW was keen to keep the Detroit-Hamtramck site open, as it was previously slated for closure in January 2020, though the union has expressed concern about the allocation of electric vehicles there, as it isn’t clear just how popular these vehicles will be. GM predicts the plant will produce around 80,000 units per year when running at full capacity, which it expects to happen by 2024. This should retain about 2,225 jobs at the facility.
In addition to producing electric vehicles at Detroit-Hamtramck, GM plans to open a new battery production facility near the now-closed Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio. This facility will be operated in partnership with another, yet-to-be-named company and will employ a UAW workforce. Lordstown, which previously built the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, closed down in March of this year.
Source: The Detroit News