Production stopped April 17 at Volvo Trucks North America’s New River Valley assembly plant in Dublin, Virginia, as about 2,900 United Auto Workers members went on strike.

A five-year collective bargaining agreement expired in mid-March. The walkout happened after the expiration of a 30-day extension. It was the first such strike for Volvo since 2008.

The strike comes at a time when heavy-duty truck makers are already struggling to keep pace with high demand. Both Volvo and sister company Mack Trucks already said they expected downtime at their plants this quarter because of a global shortage of microchips. It also comes as Volvo ramps up production on its new heavy-duty electric truck.

“The UAW is disappointed that Volvo Truck has failed to present a substantial offer by the March 16 contract deadline despite a contract extension,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry, director of the UAW Heavy Truck Department, in a statement. “Every day our UAW members leave their homes proud of the work they do at Volvo making some of the finest trucks in the world.”

The UAW proposed the next bargaining date be Monday, April 26.

Volvo officials said the strike came as a surprise.

“Progress was being made, and we had offered substantial increases in our employees’ compensation,” said NRV Vice President and General Manager Franky Marchand in a statement. “We don’t understand why the UAW won’t allow our employees to continue building trucks while we continue negotiations. We are committed to the collective bargaining process, and look forward to getting back to the table.”

Volvo's New River Valley truck assembly plant. - Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Volvo's New River Valley truck assembly plant.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

In an April 16 strike-notification letter posted on the local UAW chapter’s Facebook page, the union said many topics remain unresolved, including wage increases, job security, wage progression, skilled trades, shift premium, holiday schedules, work schedules, health and safety, seniority, pension, 401(k), healthcare and prescription drug coverage, and overtime.

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 United States, according to the company. The NRV plant employs more than 3,300 people, about 2,900 of whom are UAW members. 

The plant is in the midst of a $400 million investment for advanced technology upgrades, site expansion and preparation for future products, including the Volvo VNR Electric truck, slated for the serial production launch this spring. 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, according to the company.

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