Sunday, November 9, 2008

Some Spring Hill GM workers face year-end layoffs

General Motors Corp.'s Spring Hill plant and nine others in North America are facing layoffs after the Detroit automaker on Friday reported a loss of $2.5 billion in the third quarter.

About 3,600 workers companywide will be laid off indefinitely, as GM reduces production to deal with a deep slump in auto sales.

The depth of the cuts in Spring Hill, where GM started production of the Chevrolet Traverse crossover vehicle in October, are unclear, but they will center on the elimination of 100 temporary workers, said Mike Herron, chairman of the United Auto Workers' local chapter. Those workers are expected to be laid off on or around Dec. 23, Herron said.

"This is a crisis that we had on Wall Street now hitting Main Street," he said.

"There is no business right now that is not looking to conserve every dollar that they can."

The layoffs are part of a plan to cut production at 10 assembly plants in re sponse to a dismal fall. Last month, sales at GM dropped 45 percent, the worst performance in the industry, and company officials do not expect them to rebound soon.

"Market demand is absolutely bottomed out," said Chris Lee, a company spokesman.

The company will shut 10 plants temporarily to move equipment and reduce the rate of production, a process known as a "re-rate."

Two shifts still planned

In Spring Hill, the plan is to shut the Traverse line Jan. 12 and restart production Jan. 20. The line, which has been turning out a little more than 45 vehicles an hour, will then turn out 40 an hour.

"We don't expect there to be a tremendous amount of impact on this plant," Herron said.

Details of how the cuts will affect the plant's 3,500 workers are still being worked out.

The plant will continue to run two shifts and also may continue some Saturday production, Herron said.

The brunt of the layoffs will be borne by the 100 full-time local temporary workers who were brought on when the plant reopened last month, Herron said.

The cuts come amid high hopes for the Traverse, which began trickling into dealers in October. The company sold 1,359 of the vehicles last month.

"Right now, it doesn't matter what you're producing," said spokesman Jonathan Wahl. "It's irrelevant because consumer confidence has taken such a nose dive. People are avoiding big-ticket purchases, whether or not they have the financial resources to make that purchase."

Industry seeks bailout

The cuts also came as automakers spent Friday pleading for $50 billion worth of loan guarantees to help survive the downturn in the economy, in addition to a $25 billion package that was authorized earlier in the year.

The GM spokesman said the cuts were not related to those talks, but Herron, the union chairman, said they illustrated the need for a bailout.

"There's going to be some major players in this industry that are going to collapse if the federal government doesn't step in and provide some assistance," he said.

GM to lay off 1,600 at 3 plants to cut inventory
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