Volvo Trucks Threatens Move

Volvo Trucks of North America won’t expand its plant here and may move if the United Auto Workers doesn’t sign a new contract by the end of the month, Volvo officials said Monday.

“The company will pursue other options to increase capacity,” spokesman Phil Romba said. It would consider other U.S. locations and Mexico, he said.

Romba declined to say whether the entire plant would move or just the expansion project.

Hourly union workers rejected a contract Sunday that called for a 30 percent pay cut and a different health insurance plan for new workers. The current contract expires in March 2000.

Rejection of the contract came four days after Gov. Jim Gilmore announced that plant officials were planning a $148 million expansion that would create another 1,277 jobs. He said the state would provide Volvo with a $ 50 million incentive package to complete the expansion.

John Sayers, president of UAW Local 2069, said Volvo’s deadline announcement wasn’t totally unexpected.

“We knew it was a possibility,” he said. “Now that it’s come out, we’ll have to deal with it.”


Volvo Pushes Pact

Two days before Volvo plant workers are set to vote on a new contract, the president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America said the company would consider moving part or all of its plant if the contract is rejected.

Volvo has revised the policy on new employees’ health insurance in its proposed contract; otherwise, it is similar to the pact United Auto Workers members rejected 10 days ago.

In the first public statement yet by Volvo’s top management, Marc Gustafson said, “If we don’t have an agreement with the union, then we have to go back and look at considering what’s good for Volvo.”

Any future plans at the Volvo plant, including a $148 million expansion announced two weeks ago by Gov. Jim Gilmore, will depend on the workers and approval by the General Assembly of a $54.2 million incentive package, Gustafson said Tuesday from his Greensboro, N.C., office.

“If it’s not in the New River Valley, we have to know that and move on with that,” he said. “I will not commit to anything until we have stability in our work force.”

Nonunion Workers Reap Benefit

Volvo Trucks North America tripled a retirement benefit for managers and other nonunion employees 12 hours after unionized workers accepted cuts in starting pay and health coverage last week, Volvo officials confirmed Friday.

The company raised its 1998 matching contribution to nonunion employee 401(k) accounts from 25 percent to 75 percent. For every $1,000 saved by workers, the company will contribute $750 instead of the previous level of $250.

Marc Gustafson, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks, announced the added benefit in a Jan. 29 memorandum to his managers titled “rewarding success.”

“These decisions were made some time ago,” he wrote. “But we delayed their announcement in order to avoid complicating the recent labor negotiations, which were just concluded.”

Gustafson congratulated the nonunion workers on “the most successful year in our company’s history” and listed several benefits including a fifth week of vacation for employees with at least 20 years of service.

Off Politicians, Pudding, Falwell Says

The Rev. Jerry Falwell says he’s sworn off two of his longtime favorites — politicians and banana pudding.

Falwell said last week he expects to regularly “confront the culture” on national television programs instead of supporting political candidates, and start a new diet following a recent heart operation.

Over the past year, Falwell has re-emerged on the national stage in a flurry of television appearances after years of financial problems.

A series of cutbacks and gifts, the most recent a $27 million donation in September, has erased the bulk of the $120 million debt that burdened Falwell’s operations ministries only seven years ago. Now Falwell’s Liberty University has its academic accreditation off probation and is looking at adding more dorms and other buildings.

And the televangelist, whose show the “Old Time Gospel Hour” never left the airways, says his aim hasn’t changed, just some of his targets. Falwell has given up campaigning for politicians as he did for President Reagan in the 1980s.

“I don’t plan ever to get back into Moral Majority-type work,” he said. “What I did I did because I felt led to do it then and I’m glad I did it. . . . My thing [now] is a nonpartisan biblical approach to moral and social issues.”

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