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Latest News - December 2014

December 13, 2014
Nissan's temporary employee use questioned
Source: DAILY NEWS JOURNAL
By:
Scott Broden

Nissan holds Rutherford County's per capita income back through temporary employees who represent more than 60 percent of the factory's 8,000-plus workers, United Auto Workers officials contend.

"The majority of their workforce is employed by a third-party agency with no commitment whatsoever to the workers," said Mike Herron, the chairman of the UAW Local 1853 that represents employees at the General Motors factory in Spring Hill.

UAW has twice in the past attempted to unionize the 31-year-old Nissan factory when it had a larger makeup of direct employees but was unable to persuade the majority of the workers to agree to the collective-bargaining representation. Union officials hope both Nissan employees and the contact workers will join the UAW.

"One of the many things that the union strives for through collective bargaining is the commitment for the permanence of workers," Herron said. "You can be here today and gone tomorrow as a temporary worker with no long-term commitment from the company. How does a worker feel in that kind of situation?"

Nissan spokesman Justin Saia declined to confirm or deny the UAW assertion that more than 60 percent of the workforces at the Smyrna car factory are temporary employees with a company contractor.

"We do not provide that level of detail concerning the operations of our plants for proprietary reasons," Saia said. "However, the use of contract workers (associates) is a common practice throughout the industry. We strive to maintain a level of associate workers that is complementary to these industry standards."

After the recent economic recession, the company needed to bring on more capacity faster than ever before, Saia said.

"The decision was made to partner with contract staffing agencies to help identify, recruit and onboard additional workforce to meet these demands quickly," Saia said. "Now that the recovery is steady and our business has stabilized, Nissan is providing opportunities for eligible associates to transition to Nissan technicians through our Pathway program. This allows us to reward our best associates and to continue providing high quality, good-paying jobs with strong benefits wherever we operate."

Compensation packages for Nissan associates include wages higher than the average manufacturing wages in the state, profit sharing based on company performance, medical, dental, 401(k), as well as access to all amenities at Nissan's factories, such as the bank, fitness center, family pharmacy and other options based on location, Saia added.

"In Smyrna, we now employ more than 8,000 people for the first time in the plant's history, representing a growth of more than 4,000 jobs since mid-2011," Saia said. "The Nissan Smyrna plant is also the largest producing automotive plant in North America through November."

The UAW is not alone in advocating Nissan hire more direct employees instead of relying on contract workers. State Rep. Mike Sparks contends that far too many temporary workers at the factory are not enjoying the full pay and benefits required to buy a home and end up living in apartments and other rental properties.

Many of these temporary workers have low enough incomes for their children to qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school that the taxpayers subsidize, added Sparks, a Republican from Smyrna and a former eight-year technician at the Nissan factory.

Nissan, Sparks contends, should return to the Kaizen philosophy of constant and never ending improvement that was a part of the work ethic at the factory when he was an employee. Kaizen also taught him that "quality suffers if you look at price alone," Sparks said.

"That outsourcing — as much as they do — violates Kaizen," Sparks said.

"I think if we aren't careful that temp issue gives the UAW some leverage," added Sparks, noting he's discussed the issue with Gov. Bill Haslam and the state's U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. "I don't want to give (UAW) any leverage. I've been told by very important folks in the state that Nissan will leave our state if (the factory workers) ever unionize. I don't want to see that happen."

Losing the Nissan factory would hurt a town where Sparks said he intends to be when he retires.

"It's my community," Sparks said.

If the 60 percent-plus estimate is accurate, the total contract workers would be at least 4,800, and UAW officials estimate they're accepting jobs with a pay range between $9 to $16 per hour.

If Nissan had 8,000 workers and 30 to 40 percent were direct employees, that group would represent about 2,400 to 3,200 of the factory workforce.

That number is greater than the 2,000 employees at the General Moters Plant in Spring Hill, but Herron said the UAW workers are in a stable, long-term arrangement to build GM products for several years. His factory used to build the defunct manufacturing of Saturn cars before being reorganized.

The UAW also hopes to represent all the workers at the Nissan factory who would like a better standard of living and the economic gains that would come through collective bargaining process, Herron said.

"We just want to advocate and really help the workers in the state of Tennessee," Herron said. "They need a voice. They need to be able to help collectively bargain a fair day's pay. We have one of the very best workforces you can possibly get. I have been very impressed by the workforce in the state of Tennessee. However, they deserve to be paid a livable wage and to have a permanent job."

 

 


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