Volvo to resume production at Virginia plant despite strike

DUBLIN, Va. (AP) — Volvo Trucks North America says it will restart production at a plant in southwestern Virginia on Monday despite an ongoing strike and the lack of a labor deal between the company and a union representing nearly 3,000 workers.

The company said in a news release that it will implement terms and conditions of a tentative agreement endorsed by leaders of the United Auto Workers union on July 1. Workers at the tractor-trailer assembly plant in Dublin had rejected that tentative pact.

Returning employees “will immediately receive the wage increases and benefits outlined in the July 1 agreement, except for the ratification bonuses that would be paid on contract ratification,” the company said.

Brian Rothenberg, a UAW spokesperson, said in an email to The Associated Press on Sunday evening that the “strike is ongoing.”

“The UAW is evaluating the company’s position and evaluating our legal options,” he wrote. “A new vote is scheduled Wednesday for the bargaining unit members on the company’s last, best and final offer.”

Volvo says the 1.6 million-square-foot (nearly 150,000-square-meter) Dublin plant is the largest manufacturer of Volvo tractor-trailer trucks in the world. It is one of the largest private sector employers in the region, with approximately 3,300 employees, some 2,900 of whom are represented by the UAW.

The previous contract, reached in 2016, was to have expired in mid-March. Negotiations began in February. Unionized workers went on strike from April 17 to 30 and returned to work as negotiations resumed. UAW members rejected a proposed contract in May. The company announced another tentative agreement later that month, but it was rejected June 6.

“The ongoing strike — which we continue to believe is unnecessary — is hurting our customers, and has already set back our project to expand and upgrade the facility,” NRV Vice President and General Manager Franky Marchand said in a statement last week. “No one is gaining from the current situation, and we will consider all options related to the bargaining process.”

The Volvo Group is the only heavy-duty truck manufacturing group that assembles all of its trucks and engines for the North American market in the U.S., according to Volvo. It said the plant is undergoing a $400 million investment for technology upgrades, site expansion and preparation for future products, including the Volvo VNR Electric truck.

It added the plant has added 1,100 jobs since the current union agreement was implemented in 2016 and is on track to have a net increase of approximately 600 positions in 2021.