By Sally Klingel, Ann M. Martin
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Extra resources for A Fighting Chance: New Strategies to Save Jobs and Reduce Costs
In each crisis, the union has had to react by mobilizing a CST to prevent further long-term job loss. It was not until the 1986 agreement on bidding for new work that the union could be proactive in securing new employment at the plant. Through CSTs, the union has gained more influence over management's operational decisions, specifically by negotiating over the cost-saving proposals of the team. More involvement by hourlies in monitoring internal costs and the costs of vendors has given the union more input into the decision to outsource.
It took weeks of vigorous discussion before Local 686 and Harrison management agreed to a process by which union members would investigate savings in an effort to match or better Autocon's bid. The process they agreed to was a variation of the cost study team strategy. Although there was some precedent at Harrison for joint efforts to save jobs, this was the first time that a team was created for the sole purpose of identifying cost savings. The story of the development of the cost study team at Harrison demonstrates that CSTs can be effective even when there is little initial understanding between labor and management and when past experience makes it difficult for these parties to reach agreement outside formal negotiations.
It was the end of 1984, two and a half years after submitting its report, before the last changes were implemented. This delay in implementation was partially the result of management turnover, but the lack of a planned mechanism to ensure that approved suggestions would be put into operation contributed to the problem. The experience with the wire harness team prompted the union and management to alter the way in which CST recommendations would be implemented. Two procedural changes were made: first, a sixty-day response period was established to encourage the executive policy committee to make a timely decision on the team's proposals, and, second, Xerox and the ACTWU 23 two team representatives, one hourly, one salaried, were selected to oversee the changes that would take place.