GM workers likely to reject buyout offer, In Spring Hill, focus on new jobs

GM workers likely to reject buyout offer
In Spring Hill, focus on new jobs
1:19 AM, Oct. 21, 2011 |
Buyout and early-retirement offers in General Motors’ new contract with the United Auto Workers aren’t likely to find many takers at the automaker’s Spring Hill plant, especially now that most of the laid-off employees should soon be going back to work, union officials say.
While there is a brief additional layoff looming in the plant’s injection-molding department as GM updates some of its vehicles, Spring Hill’s overall employment is expected to grow by 2,000 or more over the next year as the vehicle assembly line and a new four-cylinder engine line ramp up.
This month some of the 300 workers in the plant’s plastic injection-molding department will go on furlough as GM makes some model changeovers at assembly plants supplied by parts made in Spring Hill, said Mike Herron, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 1853. The plant now has about 1,100 workers in all.
“We don’t have the total numbers yet (for the furloughs), but it won’t be very many,” Herron said Thursday. “We are a supplier to other plants now, and there are going to be times as a supplier when there are ebbs and flows.”
While those workers are on layoff, they will receive about 85 percent of their regular gross pay.
The chance to take buyouts or early retirement opened up Oct. 21, and workers have 45 days to apply, Herron said.
Up to $75,000 offered
The most-lucrative buyout offer — which would total as much as $75,000 in cash for the top-paid skilled-trades workers — probably won’t appeal to many at the Spring Hill plant, he said.
That’s because most of the skilled workers considering retirement took advantage of a similar program about eight months ago, in which they received $60,000 to leave, he said. As a result, there probably aren’t many more left who are eligible or who are willing to go.
“It’s safe to say that with this being the second time within a year that the company has offered a deal like this, the number wouldn’t be great,” Herron said. “There were some takers then, but less than 100.”
There are about 300 skilled-trades workers at the plant now, who make upwards of $28 an hour, compared with the plant’s entry-level pay of around $15 an hour.
None of the Spring Hill skilled workers are on layoff now, Herron said. And not all would be eligible for early retirement, he added, which requires either completion of 30 years of service or a combination of age and service years totaling at least 85.
Without that eligibility, skilled workers still could take a $65,000 payment and leave the company permanently, but with no chance for future pay or benefits, Herron said.
Spring Hill worker Pat Russell had planned to take early retirement but said she changed her mind and is waiting to be called back to work. She has been on layoff since the Chevrolet Traverse assembly operation shut down in November 2009 and moved to Michigan.
The Spring Hill plant will get more assembly line work in two phases starting next year and with another wave in 2013, GM has said.
“I was going to retire, but I’ve decided to go back to work,” Russell said. “I don’t know anybody who is going to jump on (the buyout plan).”
Contact G. Chambers Williams III at 615-259-8076 or

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