Stellantis is reportedly bringing back a controversial policy that would have skilled trade workers doing 12 hour days for 7 days a week as a way to maximize shift coverage. The original arrangement had staff pushing long hours only to be rewarded with a full week off. But it was temporarily nixed after workers complained about the schedule and fretted over how the change might impact benefits. An alternative schedule prioritizing flexibility was created, though the automaker (still owned by FCA at the time) stressed that it needed more tradespeople working on the weekends to help avoid production gaps.
The 84 hour week is now back, with Stellantis testing it out at Sterling Heights Assembly, where the Ram 1500 is manufactured. However, it doesn’t appear to have grown in popularity.
According to the Detroit Free Press, many workers saw it as an abandonment of commitments to the eight-hour day and blamed both Stellantis and their union for failing to have their backs. But they still had to vote on it. UAW Local 1700 counted hands on the policy in January, with staff selecting what they claimed was the best in a list of bad options. The alternative program would have had them rotating with each week swapping the days they’d be on site. While a decision had to be made, some union members made formal complaints that the UAW seemed to be working against its own core principals and expressed concerns that this would become the new normal.
An alternative work schedule for skilled trades was allowed as a result of the 2019 contract for then-FCA’s UAW members. The company has said alternative work schedules for skilled trades ensures plants have appropriate coverage levels across all production shifts, and the union was told weekends were a particular problem at high-volume plants like [Sterling Heights Assembly].
The plant has more than 7,800 workers, according to the company. Officials have said several hundred of them are skilled trades.
All but a couple of the dozens of skilled trades workers who have contacted the Free Press about the alternative work schedule have expressed frustration, saying they do not want to work 12-hour shifts over such a long stretch and be forced to work multiple weekend days in a month. They have expressed concern over its impact on overtime and other issues, too.
For what it’s worth, Stellantis knows that it needs to play catchup after pandemic-related lockdowns crippled supply chains and demand and this may be the best solution to maximize uptime. But we were less than impressed with its regurgitated, boilerplate response that basically blames Fiat Chrysler for any decisions it makes about scheduling: “During 2019 bargaining, FCA and the UAW agreed to a series of alternative work schedules for skilled trades to ensure the plants have the appropriate levels of coverage across all production shifts,” a spokesperson explained.
Interestingly, news of the schedule change has since been overshadowed by the announcement of payouts to about 43,000 Stellantis employees represented by the UAW. The $8,010 in profit sharing represents a modest but meaningful increase from the $7,280 checks issued last year.
“These figures demonstrate the financial soundness of Stellantis, bringing together two strong and healthy companies. Stellantis gets off to a flying start and is fully focused on achieving the full promised synergies,” the automaker said in the release.