UAW again says no to Volvo Trucks deal

By Mike Brezonick12 July 2021

A third time is alleged to be a charm, but it wasn’t for Volvo Trucks North America in its negotiations with the United Auto Workers union over a new six-year contract at the company’s New River Valley plant in Dublin, Va.

Volvo Trucks New River Valley plant Striking workers at Volvo Trucks North America’s New River Valley plant in Dublin, Va., have for the third time rejected a tentative agreement for a new six-year contract.

On Friday, the union again rejected the tentative agreement reached between the company and union negotiators, marking the third time the rank and file said no to a tentative deal with the company. The most current balloting was closer than earlier votes – 60% reportedly voted to reject the offer, while 40% voted to accept. Earlier the contract was turned down by margins as high as 90%.

“Given the significant wage gains and first-class benefits this agreement delivered, and the strong support it garnered from UAW leadership at every level, this outcome is unexpected and very disappointing,” said NRV Vice President and General Manager Franky Marchand of the latest vote. “Now that our employees have rejected three successive agreements endorsed by the leaders they elected to represent them, we need to consider our next steps.

“The ongoing strike – which we continue to believe is unnecessary – is hurting our customers and has already set back our project to expand and upgrade the facility. No one is gaining from the current situation, and we will consider all options related to the bargaining process.”

The union’s position

On Sunday, UAW Local 2069 President Matt Blondino posted an announcement on the union’s Facebook page “asking all members not to cross the picket line.”

“We are still on strike until further notice,” the announcement added. “We will have a ratification vote on Wednesday, July 14. If ratified, we could possibly return to work between Thursday, July 15, 2022 to Monday, July 19, 2021.

Blandino also posted a video about the situation to the union’s Facebook page that can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=560602141617293

Implementing the contract provisions

On Monday, Volvo issued a statement saying that “after reaching an impasse today in discussions with United Auto Workers (UAW) negotiators regarding a new contract for the company’s New River Valley (NRV) plant, Volvo Trucks North America will on July 12, 2021 implement the terms and conditions of the tentative agreement endorsed by UAW leaders on July 1, 2021. Any employees who return to work on July 12 or thereafter will immediately receive the wage increases and benefits outlined in the July 1 agreement, except for the ratification bonuses that would be paid on contract ratification.

“We need to safeguard our future and start building trucks for the many customers and dealers whose businesses and livelihoods depend on our products,” Marchand said. “Our last offer delivered significant wage gains and first-class benefits for our employees, and 40% of UAW voters supported it. We look forward to welcoming employees back to the plant, and to getting back to building the industry’s best heavy-duty trucks.”

The Volvo Group assembles all of its trucks and engines for the North American market in the United States. The NRV plant in Dublin, Virginia employs more than 3300 people, about 2900 of whom are UAW members.

Volvo said the plant is in the midst of a $400 million investment for advanced technology upgrades, site expansion and preparation for future products, including the Volvo VNR Electric truck. The company said the plant has added 1100 jobs since the current union agreement was implemented in 2016 and is on track to have a net increase of approximately 600 positions in 2021.

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