Chrysler Shifts Jefferson North Plant Schedule to Add 1100 Jobs

That Jeep Grand Cherokee sure is popular: the Chrysler Group is changing the scheduling at the Detroit, Michigan plant that makes it and adding a third crew--but not a third shift--as of next week, bringing 1100 new employees into the fray.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee, made at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit, is having a great year. In the first nine months of 2012 the luxury sport utility vehicle's sales were up 31 percent to 112,075, passing the Wrangler to be Jeep's most popular vehicle. Sales of the Dodge Durango (which rides atop the same platform and comes from the same plant) are much the opposite: they're down 23 percent to 30,052 sales through the end of September. The long-awaited Maserati Levante SUV, which will use the Grand Cherokee's platform, isn't far away.

Don't think that those two cancel each other out, however. Despite the Durango's sales shortcomings, the Jefferson North plant is stretched thin due to demand for the Grand Cherokee. That also doesn't take into account future production of the Levante, which will be built alongside the Durango and Grand Cherokee (at least until it reaches Maserati's exclusive "finishing shop") there.

Chrysler's solution is a new schedule that takes Jefferson North from two shift crews to three, although the plant will continue to operate on a two-shift schedule. The new schedule, dubbed "3-2-120," uses three rotating crews that rotate through two plant shifts, over the course of six days. The result is 120 hours of productivity per week, and one day off, Sunday. Workers on the ground will work four 10-hour shifts during the week, adding up to the typical 40-hour workweek.

The schedule has been described as "controversial," likely because all 1100 new workers (who will be spread across the shifts; veteran workers can opt to join the third crew) are being hired under a UAW-Chrysler-agreed base/two-tier wage schedule. Veteran workers may or may not lose some overtime hours, as well (Jefferson North workers were already working huge amounts of overtime, thanks to high Jeep demand). On the other hand, both Chrysler and the UAW agree that a constant demand for new vehicles from JNAP is a good problem to have, and the UAW stands behind the new schedule at Jefferson North. Chrysler also projects a reduction (or leveling) of production costs for the Grand Cherokee. In what's being heralded as a sign of progress, the UAW says there's a number of Big Three automaker plants looking to move to similar schedules.

Source: Detroit News

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