General Motors is allowing some salaried factory employees across many of its factories in the United States more flexibility to work remotely.
The automaker confirmed to the Detroit Free Press Monday that it is conducting some pilot programs in its factories that are being driven by GM’s Work Appropriately policy, which GM introduced in April 2021 to its global white-collar workforce after many employees successfully worked remotely during the pandemic.
Work Appropriately gives certain salaried GM workers more flexibility to work wherever they can best do their job. GM views it as a tool to retain talent and lure new talent without requiring them to move to Michigan.
But in the factories, the employees have been expected to work onsite until now.
GM is now testing various pilot programs at all its plants to “provide additional flexibility for our salaried manufacturing team members,” GM spokesman Dan Flores told the Detroit Free Press.
“The initiatives that we have been piloting vary from site to site but include working from home, where appropriate, to do administrative tasks, training, online learning” and shift assignments, Flores said.
But it doesn’t sit well with many hourly factory folks who have no choice but to come in to work.
“Would I like to do that? Hell yeah, bring 400 cars to me and I’ll work on them in my backyard,” said Mike Yakim, a line worker at GM’s Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant. “Can we do that as a pilot program?”
Flores said GM’s pilot is a response to feedback from salaried factory employees as well as “looking for opportunities to increase employee work flexibility.”
There are many jobs across GM where the work will continue to be done at a GM facility, Flores said. Those include engineering, vehicle design, vehicle testing and development as well as assembly line and skilled trades in manufacturing.
“But where there are opportunities, we are exploring options,” Flores said. “I know plant leadership works in the plant every day.”
The pilot programs are being tested only on assignments that have “work location flexibility,” he said. Those include human relations jobs, for example, some plant union workers said.
“Feedback from our salaried team members has been universally positive,” Flores said. “They appreciate that we are continuing to explore what’s possible and they are genuinely excited about the ideas that are being explored and put into practice.”
Flores declined to specify the ideas that have been put into practice to date.
It is also unclear if GM will formally adopt a Work Appropriately-type program at its plants because, Flores said, “Due to the variation in the work requirements, there is no specific end date/beginning date and the initiatives vary by site.”
At Factory ZERO in Detroit and Hamtramck, local union leaders have complained to management about some salaried staff being allowed to work remotely, said Scott Harwick, shop chairman for UAW Local 22, which represents hourly workers there.
Factory ZERO is GM’s most technology-advanced factory. It was retooled to the tune of $2.2 billion to build all electric vehicles.
It employs 800 people as it ramps up production of the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup which it started building late last year. When it is at full capacity and building the Hummer SUV, Cruise Origin and Chevrolet Silverado EV in the near future, the plant is expected to employ 2,200.
Harwick said he cannot characterize how widespread working remotely is with the management at the moment, but the idea of a pilot program being adopted is something his membership would likely not embrace.
“It’s maybe a onesie, twosie. They haven’t told us, ‘We work two days here and three days at home’ or anything like that,” Harwick said. “As far as I know, they’re committed to working five days here and if a situation arises, they have the option to work remote versus us not having that option. It’s a double standard type of thing.”
The UAW International declined to comment on the pilot program.
But at GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana, UAW Local 2209 Shop Chairman Rich LeTourneau said there are a “handful” of the plant’s human relations people who have been regularly working remotely since the pandemic.
“Not every day, maybe one or two days a week, and not the majority of them,” LeTourneau said. “But it happens.”
GM builds its popular and profitable Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups at Fort Wayne Assembly.
LeTourneau was not aware of the pilot to allow some factory workers the flexibility of remote work, but LeTourneau said it should not be adopted.
“If everybody can’t work at home, nobody should because it sends a piss-poor message,” LeTourneau said. “The people who build trucks can’t work from home, so I don’t think anybody should work from home in the auto industry.”
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Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.