April 17, 2008 / 2:57 PM / in 11 years

UAW on strike at GM crossover plant in Michigan

DETROIT (Reuters) - A local unit of the United Auto Workers went on strike on Thursday at a General Motors Corp plant that builds fast-selling crossover vehicles, adding to disruptions caused by the union’s walkout at American Axle & Manufacturing, a major supplier to the automaker.

A 2007 Saturn Outlook crossover SUV sits at the New York International Automobile Show in New York April 12, 2006. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

GM has already been forced to at least partly idle about 30 North American plants because of parts shortages due to the UAW’s more than seven-week strike at American Axle.

Members of UAW Local 602 who work at GM’s Lansing Delta Township plant near Lansing, Michigan, walked off the job just after 10 a.m. ET after the automaker and local union leaders failed to agree on work rules and other issues.

For months, GM and Local 602 leaders have been trying to reach an agreement on contract details for the plant to go along with the national agreement reached between the automaker and the UAW last September.

“We are disappointed that UAW Local 602 has taken strike action at the Lansing Delta Township plant,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said. “We remain focused on reaching an agreement as soon as possible.”

According to GM’s website, some 3,300 hourly workers were employed at the plant at the end of April 2007.

The factory produces the popular Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia crossover vehicles, which are built on a car platform to provide easier handling and better mileage than the larger SUVs.

Production at the plant had already been disrupted by a UAW strike on Wednesday by about 90 workers at local automotive parts supplier Alliance Interiors.

GM had resumed production on the first shift at Delta Township on Thursday, but eventually would have run out of parts again during the day, Flores said.

ANOTHER STRIKE LOOMS

The UAW remained on strike at Alliance on Thursday, Local 724 President Dean Poggiali said. But he added that the union held talks with Alliance during the day.

“They met for a few hours this afternoon, but I’m not sure how far they got,” Poggiali said. “Maybe we’ll have something from them tomorrow morning.”

GM also faces another possible strike by a UAW local unit at 10 a.m. ET Friday if the company and local leaders at a Warren, Michigan, transmission plant cannot reach agreement.

So far, GM executives have expressed little concern publicly about the American Axle strike, which mainly has hampered production of large SUVs and pickup trucks.

Sales in both of these segments of the U.S. auto industry have suffered due to the weaker economy and rising gas prices.

However, sales of GM’s midsize SUVs and crossover vehicles rose 47 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, driven by the Enclave, Acadia and Outlook.

Inventories for these popular products are leaner than for the big pickups and SUVs.

About 3,650 UAW-represented workers have been on strike at five American Axle plants since February 26.

Talks resumed last week, and the supplier has reported some progress.

GM shares closed down 11 cents, or 0.55 percent, at $19.79 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by David Bailey and Nick Carey, editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Ted Kerr

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