Workers OK Volvo Pact

After threats by Volvo Trucks North America to scuttle a $148 million expansion project, members of the United Auto Workers ratified a new contract Thursday, three days before the company’s deadline.

UAW Local 2069 President John Sayers said the threat was a factor in the vote.

“It put pressure on us, and it was designed to put pressure on us,” he said.

Union members voted 1,253-562 for the six-year contract, which will start new employees at 30 percent less than base pay and require an eight-month waiting period for health insurance.

Eleven days earlier, the union rejected a similar contract, but Volvo made a counteroffer that shortened the waiting period for new workers’ health benefits by two months while the union gave up an allowance for safety shoes worth about $300,000 over the life of the contract.

Sayers said the union recommended that workers ratify the new contract. The UAW’s former contract was due to expire in March 2000.

Volvo had threatened to reject a $54.2 million state incentive package to build the expansion and move part or all of the plant if workers didn’t accept a contract by Sunday.

“I don’t know what we’d have done without this,” said Charles Cook, a member of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors who also is president of Pulaski Encouraging Progress, a local economic development organization.

“It’s going to put us on the map for the state. It’ll put us on the map for the state and the nation, if Volvo goes through with the merchandising plan that they have,” he said.