According to The Detroit Free Press, GM has relocated some of its salaried white-collar workers to Wentzville Assembly to help compensate for the high rate of worker absenteeism it has seen at the factory. In a statement, GM spokesman Jim Cain said the “team on the ground in Wentzville is trying to navigate a very difficult situation to keep the plant operating, while accommodating employees who are not showing up to work,” due to concerns over contracting COVID-19.
While GM says bringing it salaried workers is a necessity if it wishes to replenish its supply of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, the UAW says this practice violates a clause in its 2019 labor contract with GM. The clause states that “supervisory employees shall not be permitted to perform work on any hourly-rated job,” except in “emergencies arising out of unforeseen circumstances which call for immediate action to avoid interruption of operations,” or “in the instruction or training of employees, including demonstrating the proper method to accomplish the task assigned.”
GM said previously that it would cut the third shift at Wentzville Assembly, as it was unable to fill all the positions on the shift amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It then announced it would keep the third shift and 200 hire new workers to staff it, but as hiring and training workers will take time, GM has elected to use its salaried workforce as a stop-gap.
“We’ve been relying on these salaried volunteers to help us continue to operate and hopefully we’ll see reduced absenteeism,” Cain told the Free Press.
Many of the salaried employees on the line at Wentzville work in the manufacturing or product side of the business, so they are at least somewhat familiar with a vehicle assembly line and how they operate, Cain said. These could include quality and/or manufacturing engineers or other similar positions. That said, the automaker says it still provides them with the proper training to do the job properly and safely.
The UAW has filed a grievance over the practice, though GM has not yet responded, with Cain saying there is a process for reviewing and processing such complaints. The Detroit Free Press indicates these complaints are typically filed at the local level to see if they can be resolved before finding their way to GM in Detroit.