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Under a new labor agreement, Delphi Corp.'s plant in Lockport will make engine-cooling parts for the next generation of General Motors pickup trucks, company and union officials said Friday.

The agreement guarantees an important carry-over of existing work, without which the plant would be decimated, according to the United Auto Workers.

"This is huge . . . it secures our work force here in Lockport," said Paul Siejak, president of UAW Local 686, Unit 1.

Components for GM full-size trucks are the plant's biggest job, making up 45 percent of production, he said.

Workers approved the three-year agreement by 62 percent to 38 percent in voting Thursday, Siejak said. The deal doesn't include major concessions from workers, he said.

Delphi will also return to Lockport assembly work for auto heating and ventilation modules for the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac Grand Prix, spokesman Lindsey Williams said.

The work will support employment levels without generating new jobs. The UAW has 3,300 members at Delphi's Thermal & Interior plant. Including non-union workers, the site employs about 4,200 people.

The agreement doesn't change the site's "troubled plant" status, Williams said. The plant will operate at a loss this year and next.

"It doesn't incorporate any new initiatives to make (Lockport) more competitive," Williams said of the agreement. Absenteeism is an obstacle to improving productivity, he said.

The current full-size truck platform, the GMT800 series, will begin winding down after 2005. It is the platform for full-size pickups like the Chevrolet Silverado as well as sport utility vehicles.

The new truck platform, the GMT900 series, will begin production for the 2006 model year and continue to 2011, according to the UAW. The work is expected to mean production of 1.1 million units annually for Lockport.

Shop chairman Tim LaPort and the Local 686 bargaining committee have been working 15 months on the agreement, since the expiration of the previous contract in 2003, Siejak said. The new agreement expires in September 2007.

The plant agreement governs work rules and other local issues. Wages and benefits are set in the national UAW-Delphi Corp. agreement that was signed last year.

The contract approval is good news for the region's economy, officials said.

"We were very, very pleased, to say the least, to hear that the rank and file had ratified that contract," said Michael Casale, deputy commissioner of business development in Niagara County.

However, the site's status as a "troubled plant" remains a concern, he said, and Delphi is a priority of the county's employer retention program.

Production activity at Lockport is slow and expected to weaken further early next year, when major customer GM has indicated it will put the brakes on production, Siejak said.

About 100 workers are in "job bank" status, he said. Job-bank workers aren't needed in production but neither are they laid off, causing them to clock in at the plant and wait for an assignment. The process keeps Delphi from falling below contractual employment levels.


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