GM aims to cut 21,000 workers

Saturday, July 25, 2009

GM aims to cut 21,000 workers

Buyout deadline was Friday; results expected next week

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

Hourly workers faced a deadline Friday to accept buyout and early retirement offers from General Motors Co. that could help the automaker thin its work force, cut labor costs and clear the way for hiring lower-paid employees.

It was unclear how many accepted deals open to most of GM’s 54,000 hourly workers. Results are expected Monday or Tuesday, GM spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb said.

Accepting a buyout is still risky, particularly in Michigan, where workers face a difficult time finding other jobs or selling their homes so they can seek employment in another state.

And though GM emerged from bankruptcy court July 10 after a dramatic restructuring and $50 billion in federal aid, job security is still tenuous, said auto analyst Aaron Bragman of IHS Global Insight

"The conditions haven’t changed at all," he said.

"GM may be out of bankruptcy, but they’re not out of the woods. There are still a lot of risks associated with staying.

"If conditions don’t improve, GM will be back in bankruptcy (court) and liquidating. The bankruptcy is over, but the crisis is not."

The retirement offers include $20,000 cash and a $25,000 vehicle voucher. Workers with more than 20 years are eligible for $115,000 in cash and a $25,000 voucher to quit early.

Overall, GM said it needs to cut its hourly work force by 21,000 jobs by the end of the year.

GM also is slashing salaried ranks by 20 percent and executive employees by almost 35 percent as part of broad restructuring moves.

GM started the year with 29,650 white-collar workers and wants to have 23,500 at the end of the year.

"All automakers need to get people out the door," Bragman said.

"It’s not a matter of reducing headcount, it’s turnover."

In the 2007 labor agreements with Detroit’s Big Three, the UAW agreed to slash starting wages and benefits for newly hired workers to $14 an hour.

"To take full advantage of the cost benefits of making small cars profitably in the U.S., they need that turnover," Bragman said. "The sooner they can get these people out the door, the better it will be for their bottom line and health."

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