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Chrysler forced to reinstate of terminated workers

by Bill Cawthon on

A group of Chrysler workers who were terminated after being filmed (apparently) drinking on their lunch break have been reinstated as a result of mandatory arbitration.

Thirteen workers lost their jobs over the September 2010 incident that was caught on videotape by the Fox News station in Detroit.

Following an investigation, the workers were fired in accordance with Chrysler policy. The workers filed grievances with the United Auto Workers union and the matter went to arbitration, where Chrysler lost its case.

The full story has not been released, and it is possible that the arbitrator either found that there was not enough evidence that the workers were actually drinking alcohol, that the workers were entitled to addiction treatment before being discharged, or that the company’s own due process policies had been ignored.

Many companies, both union and  non-union, have policies of providing treatment to workers who fail drug testing, with long “no tolerance” probationary periods afterwards.

Scott Garberding, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing, posted a corporate response to the decision and action on the Chrysler blog. Excepts have been posted in various venues, but Allpar is presenting it in its entirety.

We’ve seen a fair bit of social media discussion regarding the return to work of 13 Chrysler Group LLC employees who were dismissed from their jobs at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. We took that action after a September 2010 local news report exposed the workers’ off-duty conduct.

The workers followed the grievance procedure process outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers. The Company denied all of the grievances, leading us to arbitrate the matter. After more than two years, an arbitrator decided in the workers’ favor, citing insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold the dismissals. This was a decision that Chrysler Group does not agree with.

I want you to know that Chrysler Group does not condone, in any way, this type of misconduct, but we’re in the tough spot of having to accept the arbitrator’s decision, just as the Union must when the ruling is in the favor of the Company

We take great pride in the quality and safety of every Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat and SRT vehicle we build, and stand by it. The behavior of these 13 individuals is, in no way, indicative of the more than 27,000 men and women who work very hard, every day to build our cars and trucks.

Chrysler has invested millions to upgrade our manufacturing facilities and methods, through World Class Manufacturing. We take very seriously the fact that our company was given a chance to rebuild itself through the assistance of the federal government and the taxpayers.

I respectfully ask you to look at this situation as an unfortunate aberration and know that Chrysler does not take worker misconduct lightly. We will always pursue the strongest and most appropriate actions when this occurs.

We’re building some wonderful and exciting cars and trucks with the highest degree of quality, safety, performance and styling. I ask you to give us the chance to prove to you that you can trust Chrysler Group products to serve you and your family well, and with confidence. Thanks so much.

Scott Garberding
Senior Vice President Manufacturing/World Class Manufacturing

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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