The Kansas City Assembly Plant. which turns out Ford Motor Co.’s best-selling Ford-150 truck, could go dark Sunday if local contract negotiations fail.
United Auto Workers members at the Claycomo plant have received notice that health and safety, staffing and seniority rights issues have not been resolved despite talks that began in April.
About 7,500 people work at the plant, and any strike would have a major ripple effect on the Kansas City area economy as well as hurt Ford production.
The “strike duty bulletin” sent to union members at the plant said the company has been given the required 120-hour notice that a Claycomo-specific walkout could begin at noon Sunday unless an agreement is reached.
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Local 249 vice president Eric Hall said he would not characterize talks as being at an impasse but rather a stalemate that might be resolved in ongoing negotiations at the local level.
“Our issues are local,” Hall said. “We’re still talking, but the notice is part of the process.”
Ford responded: “We look forward to negotiating a fair and competitive labor agreement that enables us to continue providing jobs and investment here in the U.S. and that ensures a prosperous future for the company, our employees and our communities.”
In respect to the potential work stoppage, the company’s statement said: “We work every day to avoid a disruption of our production, and we are confident we will be able to negotiate a fair and competitive labor agreement with our UAW partners.”
The Claycomo stalemate comes in the midst of continuing national talks between the UAW and the Big Three U.S. automakers. Local talks about plant-specific issues typically occur along with national negotiations.
At the national level, a tentative agreement was announced with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which the UAW this year chose to lead negotiations. But reports from plants around the country on Wednesday indicate that union members are voting it down.
The national team is working on separate four-year contract deals with Ford and General Motors.
Big issues remain in all of the talks, especially concerning the two-tier wage levels that were introduced to bring in new workers at lower pay scales than existing union workers. The automakers used the lower wages as a means to help claw out of the deep recession.
The letter to Local 249 members from Jimmy Settles, a national UAW vice president and director, said that “the company has failed to negotiate in good faith at the local level on issues surrounding manpower provisions, the national heat stress program and skilled trades scheduling amongst others.”
The heat stress reference partly reflects the fact that the Claycomo plant is not air conditioned, unlike many other auto assembly plants, including the General Motors Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan.
UAW members at the General Motors Fairfax plant also are in contract talks. UAW Local 31 president Vicki Hale said the local GM team “is continuing to meet amicably at the table.”