TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. - If Delphi Automotive Systems is making any headway in getting a more cooperative hourly labor force, look to what it's doing with union locals at the plant level. That effort, says Delphi President J.T. Battenberg III, has been overlooked as everyone focuses on current national contract negotiations between the Big Three and the United Auto Workers.
There is so much progress being made at the local level,'' he said. Battenberg appeared at the University of Michigan Manage-ment Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
He pointed to the agreement Delphi and an electrical workers union reached last month in Moraine, Ohio, where the company has an air-conditioning compressor plant.
Local 801 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers agreed to a new 17-year contract that lowers the rate of annual wage increases and starts new hires at 50 percent of the full hourly pay. In return for the unusual, long-term agreement, the union won a promise from Delphi to keep the plant open through 2013.
Battenberg, however, would not discuss the current GM-UAW negotiations for a new national agreement. The contract, covering about 200,000 hourly General Motors workers, will expire on Sept. 14.
Battenberg said too much attention is being paid to the cost of Delphi's UAW labor, which he contends is only one of a dozen or more key factors the company must grapple with to hold down the price of parts.
But he also is working at giving UAW members a better understanding of the ``facts and reality'' of the auto business by sharing cost and profit data and opportunities for Delphi to bid on supply business outside GM. Sharing this kind of deep financial data at the plant level only became common practice within the past decade, he said.
This new openness also highlights specific issues facing hourly workers at the plant level, eliminating ``cookie cutter'' concepts about what is happening in the industry.
The local can really make a significant difference,'' Batten-berg said.
Since 1992, when Battenberg was named group executive of the former GM Automotive Components Group, he has supervised a massive overhaul effort within the parts-making operation, now numbering 190 plants worldwide. The company has sold 13 parts factories and is taking ``a huge number'' of prospective buyers through four more plants it wants to sell, Battenberg said.
Delphi is working hard to expand its business outside GM and is positioning itself to compete as a systems integrator, a supplier of complete automotive subsystems such as an automobile interior.
We could do a complete vehicle ... and that's the capability you want to present to a customer,'' Battenberg said.
Because of its size, Delphi is also a major customer for many smaller suppliers, purchasing some $13 billion in parts from 2,000 subcontractors. As a customer, Battenberg also is looking for systems integrators in his own supply base.
As Delphi expands globally - now with 45 joint ventures worldwide - it is also looking for the right people.
Battenberg said a school it recently established in China is training hundreds of engineers for work in emerging markets in Asia.
Delphi wants to encourage creativity and innovative thinking but most importantly, Battenberg said, the company is looking for people who understand cars and trucks.