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UAW holds out hope to save Chrysler plants


UAW holds out hope to save Chrysler plants

Automotive News | October 30, 2009 – 9:00 pm EST


DETROIT (Reuters) — The .UAW remains engaged in talks to persuade Fiat S.p.A. to reverse plans to shutter Chrysler plants scrapped in the U.S. automaker’s bankruptcy, a union executive said today.

"The jury is still out as it relates to those facilities," said UAW Vice President General Holiefield. "We’re naturally having conversations all the time, trying to determine if there is something we can do to pull those locations up by the bootstraps," he told Reuters.

As part of a restructuring directed by the Obama administration, Chrysler had initially planned to close seven U.S. plants.

Two of those plants have been shut down, and union activists see little chance of saving a third plant, Chrysler’s stamping facility in Twinsburg, Ohio.

One of the initial seven plants, Detroit’s Connor Assembly plant is now listed as part of the new Chrysler and has been taken off the closure list.

That has put the focus for the UAW and its political allies on three plants — two in the Detroit area and one in Wisconsin — that they see as potentially fitting into the new five-year business plan being developed under the management of Fiat.

There are about 2,300 jobs at stake if Chrysler shuts the plants: Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan; Detroit Axle Plant; and Kenosha Engine Plant in Kenosha, Wis.

Plant-saving discussions

Holiefield said politicians and union officials were having talks with Chrysler executives about saving the plants.

"There is talk going on all the time. Where there’s conversation, there’s hope," Holiefield said.

In September, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who assumed management control of Chrysler when it emerged from bankruptcy in June, said plans to shut the plants had not changed.

Marchionne is due to announce a five-year strategic plan for the ailing No. 3 U.S. automaker, including a new product lineup, on Wednesday at Chrysler’s headquarters in suburban Detroit.

Holiefield said that even if a reprieve is not included in the five-year plan, the UAW and Chrysler will continue to talk to find a way to keep the plants open.

Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy on June 10 by completing the sale of most of its assets to a new company led by Fiat, which took a 20 percent stake.

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