Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on FCA, UAW worker shift communications

Twelve-hour shifts for seven days in a row rotating with seven days off won’t be the regular schedule for skilled trades workers at one of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ busiest plants. That schedule had been expected in coming weeks at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, but it’s now off the table. Concerns about how such a schedule would affect employee benefits prompted a reconsideration, according to the UAW. Marick Masters, a Wayne State University business professor who specializes in labor issues, said the thing that is key is communication. It’s important for the company and the union to explain clearly why a new type of schedule is needed and how it might actually benefit the workers as well. That could be job security in a competitive environment, profitability that leads to more profit-sharing or higher wages down the road. “It requires a great deal of education and work with the rank and file, both by the union and by the company and both of those parties together, to assuage whatever concerns they have and to make them realize it’s in their best interests to go along with this type of a schedule,” Masters said. The communications should take into consideration the worker’s concerns and try to make any necessary adjustments, he said. Longer workdays when people are experiencing physical pain can be a real problem, too. “If eight hours is painful, then 12 hours is going to be excruciatingly painful,” he said. One issue is a matter of trust. “You can’t separate the fact that there’s been a scandal brewing, and it’s tainted the image of the union and the rank and file have to be somewhat troubled by all that’s gone on,” Masters said.

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