New Schedule at GM Plant Alarms Workers

New Schedule at GM Plant Alarms Workers

Published: September 28, 2011 (Issue # 1676)

MAXIM STULOV / Vedomosti

GM is changing its working schedule in order to increase production.

Workers at the local General Motors car manufacturing plant are unhappy about the introduction of a new working schedule at the plant, the Interregional Trade Union of Carmakers said last week.

From Oct. 2, assembly line operators are to work in two shifts: A daytime shift of ten-and-a-half hours, and a nighttime shift of nine-and-a-half hours, Pyotr Letkeman, chairman of the Interregional Trade Union of Carmakers, said Monday.

Igor Stankevich, a representative of the union, said at a press conference last week that “the authorities of the plant had decided to introduce the new schedule to boost the plant’s capacity and increase car production at GM’s Russian plants to 350,000 by 2015,” Interfax reported.

Starting from November, plant workers will work for four days a week in a row, followed by a three-day break, Letkeman said.

“Working on an assembly line is very hard work. Working for nine to 10 hours in one go will be very tough for workers,” he said.

The current eight-and-a-half-hour day shift and seven-and-a-half-hour night shift were already difficult for workers, he said.

“I can’t imagine how we’ll work for ten-and-a-half hours on an assembly line, if you also add in time for lunch and journey time to and from the plant,” Letkeman said.

“Particularly when we are talking about night shifts, which traditionally run the risk of more injuries and accidents due to the human physiological condition of wanting to sleep at that time,” he said.

“I haven’t heard of such working schedule at similar car-making plants [in the area] like Ford or Nissan,” Letkeman said.

According to Letkeman, the plant’s management explained the introduction of the new schedule as being necessary for an increase in production. They also said they considered it more convenient for workers, who would then have more full days off.

“However, in reality, for most of the week, workers will not only be exhausted after long hours of hard work; they won’t have any time to spend with their families on those days,” he said.

Letkeman said the workers had appealed to the plant’s management, asking them to introduce three regular shifts instead of two. He said he had not yet heard how the management had reacted to that, he said.

Sergei Lepnukhov, a spokesman for GM, confirmed that the new schedule was being introduced in connection with plans to expand GM’s production capacities in Russia up to 350,000 cars by 2015.

“Our plant in St. Petersburg is to expand its production capacity from 98,000 cars a year currently to 230,000 cars by 2015; that is more than twice. On a practical level, such expansion entails the construction of a second plant on the same territory in the village of Shushary,” Lepnukhov told The St. Petersburg Times.

This year, the existing plant is to reach full capacity, up to 98,000 cars. Construction of the second part of the plant will begin next year, he said.

“Accordingly, the expansion plans have resulted in the introduction of new shifts, a new working schedule and the hiring of more workers. So, by 2015 we plan to hire 1,500 more employees in addition to our current staff of 1,000,” he said.

Lepnukhov emphasized that all the new schedule alterations are in accordance with Russian legislation and that they were discussed with the plant’s personnel.

Any changes at any enterprise usually encounter dissatisfaction among a certain number of people, while others react positively, he said.

“It’s impossible to find an option that would satisfy everyone 100 percent… But doesn’t it sound attractive to have three full days off every week?” he said.

“However, changes occur regularly, and we are ready to consult with the staff,” Lepnukhov said.

GM began producing cars in St. Petersburg in 2006 on the territory of the Arsenal plant. The main plant was opened in 2008.

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