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Chrysler sweetens buyout offer for UAW workers

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chrysler sweetens buyout offer for UAW workers

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Chrysler LLC is sweetening the pot with enhanced buyout terms for union workers at six plants slated to close by December 2009 as part of the restructuring of the automaker, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The special programs are over and above existing buyouts and retirement offers that have been in effect since early this year. They apply to anyone with one year of seniority, and offer combinations of lump-sum payments, vehicle vouchers and health care depending on their specific circumstances.

Chrysler has made the retirement and separation programs more attractive for those working at the plants slated to close. They include the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant; Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit; St. Louis North Assembly Plant in Fenton, Mo.; Detroit Axle; Kenosha (Wis.) Engine Plant; and Twinsburg Stamping Plant in Twinsburg, Ohio.

The details vary by plant. Examples of changes include the lowering of the age to take an incentive program at Kenosha from 55 to 50, with 10 years service. And some of the lump-sum payments have been increased, said spokeswoman Shawn Morgan.

• Sterling Heights, which will stop making the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger in December 2010, has 1,309 workers; 288 are eligible for retirement.

• The St. Louis North Dodge Ram plant will close in September. Of its 1,245 UAW employees, about 103 are retirement eligible.

• The Kenosha plant, where 329 of the 562 Chrysler workers are eligible to retire, will close in October 2010.

• At Twinsburg, 104 of 827 workers are eligible to retire. It is scheduled to close in March.

• The Conner Viper plant will close at the end of this year, and nine of its 82 employees are eligible to retire.

While Detroit Axle is to close in December 2010, Morgan said the remaining employees after buyouts and retirements are expected to be absorbed by the new Marysville, Mich., facility that will open next year to make a new family of V-6 engines.

In motions filed with the bankruptcy court, Chrysler said the outstanding special program payments have been protected.

"Checks and vouchers previously issued but not cashed and future special program checks and vouchers to be issued will be honored," the automaker said. "Funds have been reserved to ensure that future special program separation payment obligations will be met."

Those taking the enhanced programs have a May 26 deadline.

According to filings with the bankruptcy court, Chrysler wants to reduce the hourly workforce by 3,500 from its current 27,600.

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