The Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) New River Valley (NRV) truck assembly plant remains under strike for the seventh day by the United Auto Workers (UAW) and there appears to be no movement back to the bargaining table.
“We do not comment on negotiations, which broke off when the union went on strike,” VTNA spokesperson Jim McNamara told FleetOwner. “If it were up to Volvo, “ he added, “we would still be negotiating and people would still be at work.”
FleetOwner has also attempted to speak with a UAW representative but has yet to receive a response to our inquiries.
According to McNamara, VTNA’s main focus remains “achieving a contract that is fair to both parties.” He said VTNA wants an agreement that “addresses improving workforce stability and reducing manpower movement [as well as] controlling the skyrocketing cost of healthcare and addressing a serious absentee problem that the UAW acknowledges.”
McNamara said VTNA “would not speculate” on the duration of the strike or its potential impact on Volvo customers.
NRV, in Dublin, VA, is a final assembly plant for all Volvo trucks sold in the U.S. and Canada, as well as most of those sold in Mexico, noted McNamara. He added that NRV also produces all Mack highway-model trucks sold in North America.
John Walsh, director of media relations for Mack, told FleetOwner that the NRV strike only affects the company’s highway vehicles, as Mack’s vocational vehicles are built at its plant in Macungie, PA.
“Regarding the availability of Mack highway product to dealers and customers, it depends to a certain degree on the specifications required, but for the most part, we don't see a negative impact for the time being,” Walsh said.
Industry analyst Chris Brady, president of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting, told FleetOwner that the strike won’t have a big impact on fleets for the time being simply because there are still plenty of trucks at dealerships. “It’s not going to impact fleets from getting trucks because the companies all have excess [inventory],” he said.
Brady added that the timing of the strike is not beneficial to the UAW. “The union is not in a great position right now,” he remarked. “They’d prefer to strike when [order] backlog is high.”
The plant, which is a major employer in Virginia and neighboring West Virginia, has residents worried about the long-term effects of the strike on the local economy. An editorial in the local Bluefield Daily Telegraph observed that “Just as the plant is good for the economy of the two Virginias, the hard-working employees at the facility are certainly critical to Volvo’s success.”
The walkout has also reached the wider political arena. Both Democratic frontrunners, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), have released statements supporting the striking workers.
"I stand with the workers who are striking Volvo,” Sen. Obama said. “The union's demands -- job security, health benefits and safety protections -- are basic guarantees that all workers should expect and that UAW members deserve."
"I fully support the working men and women of United Auto Workers Local 2069 at the Volvo plant in Dublin in their ongoing efforts to organize and bargain collectively for a safe workplace, skills training, fair wages and meaningful health and pension benefits," Sen. Clinton said.