Detroit News: Marick Masters on temporary automotive workers

Last week, more than 1,500 temporary employees at GM and Ford Motor Co. with three or more years experience were converted to full-time status, giving them wage boosts, better health-care benefits and most importantly, job security. At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, temporary employees also have a pathway to full-time status and top wages. The conversions are based on product commitments made before and during the national contract negotiations. Temporary employees at all three automakers are used as floating workforces to fill in for the full-time workers on sick days or vacations. At the time of the negotiations last fall, temporary employees represented 7 percent of all UAW-GM hourly employees and 6 percent of UAW-Ford workers. Fiat Chrysler's temporary employees represented 13 percent of the hourly workforce, not including skilled trades. Unions aren't keen on the use of temps because it creates a division in the workforce in which temporary employees earn less, said Marick Masters, who is on the business faculty at Wayne State University. Masters believes the union achieved a "significant accomplishment" for temporary workers during negotiations, but said if absenteeism isn't addressed, a floating workforce always will be necessary. "The company likes to have as much flexibility in terms of hiring temp workers to handle unexpected absenteeism, turnover and just fluctuations in productivity," Masters said. He believes it will be a delicate balancing act between what the union and the company want.

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