Workers weigh pros, cons of latest buyout offer from ailing GM

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Workers weigh pros, cons of latest buyout offer from ailing GM

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

The bankruptcy speculation surrounding General Motors Corp. is clouding the decision-making process of hourly workers who must decide today whether to accept early retirement and buyouts, or stick with a company that could be forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The automaker is trying to thin its ranks by offering eligible workers a $25,000 voucher for a new GM vehicle and $20,000 in cash. A large participation could help GM inch closer to becoming a viable company, help it meet requirements of a $13.4 billion loan package and improve odds of receiving up to $16.6 billion in additional federal aid. Workers are worried about what might happen to pensions and other retirement benefits if GM files bankruptcy but also are concerned about passing up what could be the last buyout and early-retirement offer from GM.

"I’m really afraid to take it," said Bobbie Cornett, 58, an assembly line worker at GM’s plant in Fairfax, Kan. "I’m not sure if it’s worth it to wait and see if they’re going to file bankruptcy. I’ll probably be in a better position if I’m still working than if I’m out there and retired."

GM spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb would not say how many workers accepted the offers ahead of today’s deadline.

GM would like to see at least half of the 22,000 retirement eligible workers leave. The offers apply to all of its 62,000 hourly workers. Under its restructuring plan, GM wants to eliminate 47,000 workers, shutter 14 plants and sell, shrink or kill its Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac and Saab brands.

There has been "moderate participation" among UAW Local 1714 workers in Lordstown, Ohio, where GM produces the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5, said UAW local President Dave Green.

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