Workers go on strike at key automotive insulation plant in Pa.

About 270 workers at an Autoneum AG plant in Bloomsburg, Pa., went on strike last week against the key global automotive insulation systems supplier.

Contract negotiations between the company and its union have stalled following the company’s latest contract offer being rejected by workers, according to media reports. Workers walked off the job Thursday afternoon, according to the reports.

Autoneum, based in Winterthur, Switzerland, focuses on internal and external sound and heat insulation systems. The supplier works with almost every major automaker, including General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis, according to its website.

For the Bloomsburg plant, its exact list of customers is unclear. However, the plant received awards from Toyota in 2011, Ford in 2014 and GM in 2021. Autoneum did not respond to calls from Automotive News‘ seeking comment on the strike.

Brian Heverly, president of Local 1700 Workers United, told FOX 56 that the rank-and-file turned down Autoneum’s third and final contract offer.

Among worker complaints is the supplier’s insistence that workers pay 5 percent more of their healthcare costs outside of usual yearly increases.

Local 1700 Vice President Dave Schaffer, an employee at the plant 44 years, told FOX 56 that the workers didn’t want to strike, but felt compelled to given the circumstances.

“I’m 4th generation. Built this town, this place built this town. The people and the community appreciate what we have here and we didn’t want to go this way,” Schaffer told the outlet. “We didn’t want to do this. It’s a very historic day. We’re sticking together and it’s not a great thing but so much pride in everyone that works here.”

Schaffer added that the last strike at the plant was in 1968.

A GM spokesman told Automotive News that the automaker is aware of the situation, but does not foresee the strike having an immediate impact on GM operations.

It was not clear if the plant has been able to continue production with salaried personnel. Union officials could not be reached for further comment.

First-half net loss

Autoneum, in a statement released July 27, said it swung to a net loss of 12.8 million Swiss francs ($13.6 million) during the first half of 2022 compared with a profit of 25.5 million francs ($27 million) during the same period last year. Revenue fell 0.2 percent to 889 million francs.

The company’s struggles have mirrored those of many other global auto suppliers this year — particularly those with business exposure in Europe.

“Current geopolitical developments substantially affected business performance in the first half of 2022,” Autoneum said in a statement. “They are accompanied by accelerating inflation and significant price increases in the commodities markets, which the war in Ukraine has further exacerbated. These developments are also delaying market recovery in the automotive industry.”

The company said Oct. 31 that it reached a new-long loan agreement with its banks for 355 million francs ($377 million).

“We are pleased to have concluded this loan agreement, which secures the group’s long-term financing,”  CFO Bernhard Wiehl said in a statement. “It is also important to say at this point that Autoneum has managed to further strengthen its financial stability over the last three years despite the corona crisis and a challenging environment in the automotive industry. Positive cash flow development over the past two years has enabled Autoneum to continuously reduce net debt since 2020.”

— Philip Nussel of Automotive News contributed to this report.

Eleanore Beatty

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