Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares voices friendly tone toward UAW

Ripples of discontent already are emerging as workers seek bargaining power at battery plants.

The Youngstown Vindicator in Ohio reported that 94 percent of workers at Ultium Cells, a battery joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution, voted to authorize a strike for recognition last week.

Ford Motor Co. executives have said it will be up to the workers hired at the battery and EV manufacturing campuses it’s building in Tennessee and Kentucky to decide about union representation.

Tavares’ comments follow a brief strike last weekend at Stellantis’ Kokomo Casting plant over complaints about working conditions, including needed repairs to the HVAC system. The company reached an agreement to end the walkout, and workers ratified it on Monday.

The future battery plant in Kokomo was a source of tension in a UAW statement released Saturday. Cindy Estrada, the UAW vice president who heads its Stellantis department, said the automaker claimed to have no money for the basic needs of workers while “investing billions in a new battery plant across the street.”

Estrada said in a statement to Automotive News that agreement addressed the concerns of the membership.

Tavares had a run-in with the UAW in February, when he complained that worker absenteeism was a bigger problem at Stellantis’ U.S. plants than in other parts of the world.

But on Thursday, Tavares said Stellantis is “very fine with unions.”

“We may disagree. We may have tough discussions, that’s fine,” Tavares said. “But you always need to discuss with somebody, so we have no problem with unions. We believe that they need to play their role. Many times they are asking us to fix things that indeed need to be fixed. Many times they are asking us to look at some issues from a different angle.”

“So our company Stellantis from a management perspective of people is absolutely comfortable with unions anywhere in the world. This is our stance and we are absolutely comfortable to discuss in good faith on that approach.”

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