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Deere, UAW see positive future

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

It was the end of the shift for this Deere & Co. Moline Works employee who leaving one of the plant gates. Deere is undergoing its first significant hiring phase since the late 1970s.

Deere & Co., the Quad-Cities largest employer, is adding production workers in the first significant hiring phase since the late 1970s, under a far-reaching agreement with its union, the United Auto Workers.

About 500 of the new generation of Deere workers have been hired chainwide, including 200 workers hired at the Waterloo foundry, according to James Hecker, UAW International representative, East Moline.

Many of the remaining 300 workers have gone to John Deere's combine-assembly plant in East Moline, while handfuls of other workers filled jobs in Moline, the Davenport Works and other Deere operations outside the Quad-Cities, Mr. Hecker said.

The Milan Parts Depot will be adding workers in the near future, he said.

From the company's perspective, the new hires are paid at competitive hourly rates set by the world market.

From the union's perspective, the six-year agreement stops a downward trend that would have cut the current work force of just less than 9,000 people to 4,500 by the end of the year 2003.

The agreement will require a real turnaround in Deere's management style and philosophy, Mr. Hecker, a top union bargainer, said.

``History will show this agreement was historic,'' he said soon after the majority of UAW workers ratified the agreement last fall. ``It continued the relationship between the company and the union, and it assured a new work force.''

Deere has completed four strong years. The company has had combined earnings of $3.1 billion, introduced hundreds of new products, expanded its operations, streamlined many processes and made great strides in asset management, Deere chairman and chief executive Hans Becherer said.

``Our recent successes are signposts pointing the way to greater achievements down the road,'' he said. ``These might include consistently high financial returns, a more dominant global presence and unparalleled levels of customer satisfaction and product quality.''

Mr. Becherer attributed the initiatives and achievements of 1997 to the carefully laid plans and the contributions of many groups.

``Our success depends on the loyalty of our customers, the professionalism of our dealers, the confidence of our stockholders, and, ultimately, on the considerable talents of those who make up our employee ranks,'' Mr. Becherer said. ``Some 34,000 strong, they have invested a good deal of their lives in making John Deere one of the world's premier companies. Their energy and insights are a key to keeping Deere on a strong and prosperous track.''

Deere's worldwide ag equipment division had record sales and profit for the fourth consecutive year in 1997. Ag-equipment sales for the division increased 16 percent to $7 billion, while operating profit increased 31 percent, exceeding $1 billion for the first time.

Deere introduced the world's first six-row cotton-picker, a combine line offering improved grain quality, a new version of the 5000-series tractor, a high capacity air-hoe drill and other air-seeding and farm equipment last year.

Construction equipment sales increased 18 percent to $2.3 billion. Operating profit improved 16 percent to a record $216 million.

Deere's construction division introduced 39 new products, including excavators, motor graders and four-wheel-drive loaders, last year. Now, hundreds of dealers are visiting the Quad-Cities this month as the final year of the division's four-year capital- and product-development program.

The latest products produced at the Davenport Works will be unveiled to the media Feb. 23 and 24.

-- By Rita Pearson (February 9, 1998)

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