Ultium Cells, a subsidiary of General Motors, has agreed to raise wages for employees at its EV battery plant in Ohio by an average of 25%, the business and the United Auto Workers union announced on Thursday. The manufacturer needs Ultium, a joint venture with LG Energy Solution, to improve its supply of batteries for its expanding fleet of electric cars. As the first significant organized EV battery facility in the nation, the agreement represents a significant victory for the union.
Since the majority of workers at the plant decided to organize with the union last year, the UAW and Ultium have been in contract negotiations for about 1,100 of the plant’s employees. The union had previously contended that the wages of the EV battery employees should be equal to those of their conventional counterparts who built engines and automobiles.
Employees at Ultium presently earn between $20 and $25 per hour for production work and between $25 and $34.60 per hour for maintenance labour. According to the union, the wage hikes will range from $3 to $4 per hour. Despite the pay hikes, they will still be paid less than the conventional UAW assembly workers at the Detroit automakers, who earn more than $32 per hour.
The tentative agreement is not a full contract and must be approved by the workforce. Although it discusses worker wages, it leaves out other dynamics and processes. Workers will receive back earnings of between $3,000 and $7,000 if approved retroactively.
“While an entire ‘first’ agreement is being negotiated, the committee is still hard at work in bargaining working conditions, health and safety, seniority rights, addressing other issues raised by the membership and future wage increases throughout the term of this agreement,” said Josh Ayers, chairman of UAW Local 1112.
The continuing national discussions between the UAW and General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis, which affect some 150,000 workers, are unrelated to this accord.
The first of at least four American EV battery production sites for joint ventures with General Motors is the Ultium factory in Ohio, which began operations in August. In the upcoming years, it’s anticipated that the plants would employ thousands of people. Similar facilities announced by Ford, Stellantis, and other manufacturers would need to be organized individually by the union in addition to the existing Ultium operations.
Ultium Ohio plant director Kareem Maine stated in a statement that “this agreement is a significant and meaningful step as we continue to negotiate collaboratively and in good faith with the UAW to reach a comprehensive contract.” “Our team members are the heart of our business, and we’re proud to be able to reach a temporary wage agreement that prioritizes our amazing workforce,” the company said.
By August 27, the UAW membership ratification vote should be finished. If approved, the interim wage hike will go into effect immediately, giving active existing hourly workers pay back for all hours worked since December 23. Based on hours completed, each current employee who has worked since then is eligible to receive a one-time payout ranging from $3,000 to $7,000.