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Six Sigma in a Union enviroment – Bargaining Ploy?

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  • #30412

    Ruben Coronado
    Member

    Has anyone come across a situation whereas the local union has included Six Sigma as part of their bargaining/negotiations. We are launching a new Six Sigma program at our small manufacturing facility and the Union has requested that our 6S program be part of the collective bargaining process.

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    #79247

    Perryman
    Participant

    Ruben,
    Haven’t seen this per se but my guess is that the union is associating Six Sigma with process improvement, re-engineering, reducing waste and NVA.  Not a bad thing, but this is probably being translated into – cutting jobs.
    By having six sigma improvements discussed in collective agreements, they are effectively putting in a right of veto to any project that changes membership working conditions.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but they become a critical stakeholder to consider in every project.  You have to make sure that they are aware of projects and buy into the improvements before you get too far.
    This can also protect union membership numbers (that’s were they make there money) by ensuring that there are a trade-offs for cutting a job somewhere (improving benefits, creating other union jobs elsewhere etc).
    All-in-all, I understand the requirement for this kind of check and balance, but this kind of arrangement could seriously affect project momentum.  If the union is powerful or is not really sold on improving the company (not just their position), you risk not making serious improvements and thwarting the success of your program.
    My 2 cents.
    Patch

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    #79312

    Larry
    Participant

    We originally had our shop floor UAW local training as black belts which provided us a huge pool of experience.  The office UAW local grieved it was their work and won the batle.  Then they did not have anyone who wanted the work so instead of using our pool of experience, we hired from the street.
    Most union members will support this program, but the ones with something to hide will complain.  The union leaders will address the sqeeky wheel since happy workers make no noise.
    Perhaps the position that black belt is a management position and that green belt cab be either a management or union position.
    The truest job security for the union is a higher quality product.

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    #79321

    Mike Beauregard
    Participant

    It really depends upon your contract language. In 1987, we implemented SPC on the shop floor and the union grieved it. It went to arbitration where the arbitrator ruled that management had the right to define the work and the union had the right to request a re-evalation of the job classification any time the work changed. (We did end up having to pay more because the “added” responsibility kicked the job classification up.)
    If your contract allows you to define the work now, my recommendation is don’t give up that right. My boss was great in dealing with the union and I learned a lot from him after I took over his plant. One of the key things I learned was to use that win in the SPC arbitration to implement lots of improvements – cellular manufacturing being the biggest impact on the union jobs. All subsequent arbitrators referred back to that initial arbitrator’s ruling on the SPC. If we had given up the right to define the work with the SPC, we might never have succeeded in implementing subsequent changes.

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    #157875

    Rene Clement
    Participant

    Hi Mike,
    Could I ask which company you work for?
    It seems SPC made a difference in your plant.  I work for a postal company with a strong union environment.  We are currently big on Six Sigma methodology but have yet to truly “engage” our employees. 
    I aim is to propose SPC for the Optical Character Reader machine operators.  It is intended for them to know if they are producing within the acceptable range.   Other than proposing to simplify the machine set-ups, the SPC will have no negative impact (i.e. cut-backs) on the part of the operators.  In your opinion, what obstacles could we be facing from the union?
    Thank You,
    Rene Clement

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