GM employees are concerned that the automaker’s move towards electrification will result in lower salaries.
Per a recent report from The Detroit News, GM is increasing the workforce of its GM Subsystems Manufacturing LLC subsidiary, as well as the workforce for Ultium Cells LLC, GM’s battery cell manufacturing joint venture. Employees at both groups could be paid less than equivalent union-represented employees.
The workforce shift comes amid heavy investments as GM works towards becoming the EV market leader in North America. The expansion of the GM Subsystems Manufacturing workforce and Ultium Cells workforce is believed to be a way to keep a tiered wage system, a system which the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union has actively strived to dismantle.
Subsystems employees currently work at a variety tasks at several different GM plants. However, top wages are around $17 per hour, far below the $31 per hour earned by union-represented employees.
“It just seems like it’s another step in the big plan,” said GM Spring Hill worker Ken Larew. “With having seniority members not being able to get out to these better jobs, it seems like a way for them to get rid of seniority members or have seniority members not willing to stick around as much, which opens the door for again, more inexpensive labor.”
At present, a new Subsystems agreement is currently in negotiation between GM and the UAW, including at production facilities in Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan.
General Motors recently announced $7 billion in fresh investments, including $6.5 billion to support electric vehicle production, $2.5 billion of which will go towards the construction of a new Ultium Cells battery plant in conjunction with joint venture partner LG Energy Solutions. At present, Ultium Cells employees are not covered by the national GM-UAW contract.
Despite the concern among employees, experts believe that the two-tiered wage system may be necessary to ensure that GM is competitive in the EV space, especially as rivals Ford and Stellantis ramp up their own EV efforts.