GM Prefers Relocating Hourly Workers Over More Buyouts

GM Prefers Relocating Hourly Workers Over More Buyouts

By James M. Amend, Oct 13, 2009 3:49 PM





FLINT, MI   The running joke among some United Auto Workers union members is that General Motors Co. buyouts are like rebates: the auto maker can?t quit either.

Given that GM s last special attrition program fell short of its goal, there?s a chance the auto maker may have to go back to the well again.

Not yet, warns Larry Zahner, manager-GM Manufacturing. ?We still have some opportunities at some plants, where we have announced third shifts. And we?re going to be asking people to put up their hand and move to some of these others places, where we know the product is strong and we need the people.

No one expected we would see the little bit of uptick we have,? he adds. ?And now that we have some uptick, we?ll see what happens as we go into 2010 before we make any decisions.?

At the auto maker?s Fairfax, KS, assembly plant, for example, UAW officials say 375 jobs will be added to man a third shift beginning in January. Fairfax builds the all-new ?10 Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu.

GM also may face a manpower crunch at its Delta Twp., MI, assembly plant. The auto maker has shut down production of the Saturn Outlook large cross/utility vehicle, but will add the higher-volume Chevy Traverse to the facility as it winds down assembly operations at Spring Hill, TN. GM also builds the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave at Delta Twp.

Despite GM?s pockets of strength, President and CEO Fritz Henderson told journalists last week the auto maker was behind on reducing its number of hourly workers. It wants 40,000 by the end of this year, but currently has 49,200.




We are higher than we thought we would be,? Henderson said. ?And that is driven by the fact that while our attrition programs have been well-subscribed, they fell short of our expectations.?

GM?s most recent hourly attrition program netted 6,024 people, with more than half coming out of its assembly plants. Since 2006, an estimated 66,000 hourly workers have taken a buyout from GM.

Zahner adds he expects more UAW members to relocate if asked, rather than wait for another attrition program that may never come.

People look at things today much differently than they did before, when they would never leave their home town,? he tells Ward?s during an event here to marking the start of tooling for engine production for the new-for-?10 Chevy Volt and Cruze.

As the company has (gotten) its capacity in line with utilization, they want to make sure they also have a job. They?re more apt to move today.?

Zahner also says using existing space here to build naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the new 1.4L 4-cyl. engine for the Volt and Cruze demonstrates the thinking of the new GM.

The former General Motors Corp. announced plans last year to spend $370 million to build a new plant in Flint to accommodate the engine production. But in January, the auto maker reversed direction, choosing instead to sink $202 million into refurbishing existing space.

To go and spend our money ? and the consumers? money, because ultimately that?s where we get our profits from ? to build a plant, when we could actually put it here, that would not have been a good decision on our part,? he says.

Bringing it here,? Zahner says of a site that formerly built I-5 and V-6 engines for the auto maker?s midsize trucks, ?utilizing the workforce, having both (UAW) locals working together here in this building to produce engines for General Motors products, is a very good business decision, and one I think people should take note of.

It?s not the old GM. Let?s not go build a brand new building just to say we built a building. Let?s use our resources correctly.?





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