GM roaring out of bankruptcy

February 24, 2010 http://detnews.com/article/20100224/AUTO01/2240333

GM roaring out of bankruptcy

Since July, automaker has recalled workers, invested in facilities

ROBERT SNELL
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. has invested $1.4 billion in more than a dozen plants and created about 5,500 jobs since emerging from bankruptcy court in July.

The investment and job moves are a stark contrast to last year, when GM shed factories, implemented unprecedented production cuts and slashed thousands of jobs in bankruptcy.

GM emerged from bankruptcy with about $50 billion in federal aid.

"It is a lot more fun to work on this stuff than what we were doing a year ago," Diana Tremblay, GM’s vice president of manufacturing and labor relations, told The Detroit News.

The most recent move came Tuesday when GM announced it was recalling 1,200 laid-off hourly workers and adding a third shift of production at its Lordstown complex in Ohio. Workers there will help build the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, which goes on sale in the third quarter.

"We’re real fortunate," said Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1714, which represents Lordstown workers.

GM may start hiring lower-paid union workers at Lordstown if the automaker is unable to fill the positions with the 5,000 to 6,000 laid-off union members nationwide, Tremblay said.

Under the terms of the United Auto Workers collective bargaining agreement reached in 2007, new hires receive $14 an hour and less-generous benefits.

Tremblay suspects most of the 1,200 jobs will be filled by laid-off workers, however. About 300 workers from the Lordstown area will be brought back first, and it is possible other jobs could be filled by UAW members laid off from plants in Pontiac, Orion Township and Detroit-Hamtramck, she said.

GM needs sales to improve and the economy to recover further before it can hire any large numbers of lower-paid workers, said industry analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com.

"Sooner or later, manufacturers have to hire, but I think that’s still going to be a ways out," he said.

The $1.4 billion investment has been spread among 18 facilities nationwide, including at factories in Flint, Detroit-Hamtramck and a recently opened battery plant in Brownstown Township.

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