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Humpty Dumpty Prevention Program

Most chief executives are entering 2011 with big decisions to make—especially how to revive sales.

But, some have deeper problems to address.  Facing down “significant cost, efficiency and production flexibility gaps” as well as fierce competition for some, such as Harley-Davidson who last November told Kansas City union officials that it might move operations to Harley’s Springettsbury Township plant if a contract wasn’t ratified by early March.

Well it’s March and their “no blink” management style resulted in the members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 176 and United Steelworkers Local 760 not letting “Humpty Dumpty” fall.  They ratified a contract by a vote of 467 to 185 and the new labor agreement takes effect in August.

The “fall prevention program” has been implemented and proven to be an effective tool in the loss of all jobs in Kansas City.  Congrats to Local 176 and Local 760.  The new contract is a 7-year deal that, when implemented, will result in the Kansas City plant having about 540 full-time, hourly unionized employees compared with about 685 today.  Yes, it’s a loss, but it does keep many high-paying manufacturing jobs in Kansas City and brings all H-D plants under one umbrella for production flexibility.  The company stated that the new contract, which will be implemented in phases, will result in about $15M in annual savings starting in 2013.

To all the folks who railed on my public union previous blog post, you see private unions have to adjust to economic conditions.  Unlike the Wisconsin public union members who have protested for days because they have been ask to pare back their benefits, Harley-Davidson has budgetary constraints that can’t be fixed by raising taxes. If we used the public union mentality I suspect they would ask Harley-Davidson to respond by raising prices and demand that motorcycle enthusiasts just pay more for a scooter instead of buying something else?

And if all that wasn’t enough… this item falls into the “what were they were thinking” category… I read that in Minnesota a local pipefitters union has purchased the Hillcrest Golf Club in St. Paul, paying $4.3M – yes, you read that correct at $4.3M – for the private club and vowing to keep it private for at least two years.  That does a lot for the unions  being frugal perception…

Photo courtesy of NYTimes.

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The WAIT is over.

Sometimes, fame comes to York.  The famous author, John Grisham wrote about York, PA in “The Associate” as it was the main characters hometown.  In fact, many of its residents have gone on to fame.

But, in the case of Harley-Davidson the bleak economy means financial fame in York.

It’s been a rough year for the factory tour capital of the world.  After a reduction of over 600 employees earlier this year the company announced today it will keep its operations in York, after ratifying a new labor agreement with IAMAW which involves nearly a 50% cut in jobs.  Under the new agreement structure, the plant will have about 1,000 hourly workers reduced from the current level of 1,950. Of the 1,000 workers, 700-800 will be full-time unionized workers and about 200-300 will be unionized “casual” staff, who work according to seasonal demand and as managers deem.

H-D expects to have about 150 salaried employees, or a little more than half of the current number.  The company will invest about $90 million in the restructuring of the plant and expects about $200 million in restructuring charges tied to the plant into 2012.  The restructuring is expected to generate about $100 million in annual operating savings compared with the current structure.

Many claimed that H-D employees were out-of-touch with the ‘real’ work world.  But, being faced with the prospect of operations moving to Kentucky they voted to cut their workforce, change their work rules to allow managers to shift workers around to various tasks in the plant and agreed that new hires will earn significantly less.

Sure it’s a positive note in a sea of bad news, but isn’t that just the point, the plethora of bad news?  The companies statement can be read in full HERE.

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International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

The York Daily Record reported that union workers at the Harley-Davidson Springettsbury Township operations got their first look at a proposed contract that if approved will stop the motor company from relocating the York Vehicle Operations to an alternative site in Kentucky.

You can read the detailed contract highlights HERE.  Briefly, it’s a 58 page document that covers the next 7 years.  H-D will commit to investing up to $90 million to restructure the operations and stop efforts to relocate to Kentucky.  For those workers who lose their job as part of the restructuring there are a number of alternatives from lump-sum payout to volunteering for the reduction and receiving benefits if they lose their job.  Workers received copies of the contract today at the Toyota Arena where members met. They will vote to ratify or turn down the deal on December 2nd.  The company has until December 12th to approve.

Reading the “tea leaves,” I anticipate the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (District 98) will ratify the new contract.  Do they have any other choice?  The company has worked all angles during this down economy to their advantage and will obtain significant concessions from the workers who need a job.

UPDATE: December 3, 2009 — H-D announced the union ratified the 7 year labor agreement.

Photo courtesy of IAMAW

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