GM will detail Spring Hill restart plans on Monday

GM will detail Spring Hill restart plans on Monday
GM, UAW to announce details of plant restart, including vehicle lines
4:42 AM, Nov. 18, 2011  |  

General Motors’ Spring Hill assembly line could soon be manufacturing the hot-selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers. / Shelley Mays / File / The Tennessean

Written by
G. Chambers Williams III | The Tennessean

Word is finally coming about what new vehicles the General Motors Spring Hill plant will assemble first, when work will begin, and other details of the planned restart of the facility promised by the automaker in its new national contract with the United Auto Workers union.
GM and UAW officials from Detroit will announce the plans at 10 a.m. Monday at the facility with plant workers and government leaders on hand.
Expected to attend are Cathy Clegg, GM’s vice president for labor relations; Bob King, the UAW international president; Joe Ashton, the UAW vice president representing the GM department; and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Although union officers at the plant say they still haven’t been told what vehicles will be manufactured there, there has been speculation that the first new products could be the hot-selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact crossovers. Spring Hill would be an “overflow” production site for those models, whose main manufacturing location is in Ontario, Canada.
Under terms of the new four-year contract approved by UAW members nationwide in late September, Spring Hill is supposed to get two new midsize-vehicle lines.
The first, the topic of Monday’s announcement, would begin production sometime next year, bringing 600 jobs and a $61 million investment. The other would come in 2013, adding 1,110 jobs and a $360 million investment. The investment amounts could differ when officials announce specifics of each project.
Union officials don’t expect to learn details of the second vehicle line until closer to its launch time.
The restart of production on the vehicle assembly line would add to the Spring Hill plant’s present workforce of about 1,100. The facility didn’t completely close when the Traverse went away. Some employees were kept on to make GM’s four-cylinder engines, along with a variety of stamped metal and plastic parts for vehicles assembled at other plants.
The engine plant is undergoing a nearly $500 million expansion that will add up to 500 jobs.
Laid-off workers may return
Originally opened in 1990 to build Saturn vehicles for GM, the plant was converted in early 2008 to assemble the new Chevrolet Traverse full-size crossover utility vehicle.
But in the wake of GM’s bankruptcy reorganization, Traverse production was moved to Lansing, Mich., and the Spring Hill assembly line was placed on standby in late November 2009. About 2,000 workers were laid off, but about 1,500 of those have already transferred to GM plants in Michigan, Kansas and other areas. Some of them hope to return when the new assembly jobs are available.
Industry experts predicted that GM would restart the Spring Hill assembly operation as soon as auto sales improved and the automaker needed additional capacity, especially because the company spent about$750 million in 2008 to upgrade the facility, making it a modern flex plant capable of building any GM vehicle on very short notice.
Many of the laid-off workers who still have no jobs have already run out of unemployment benefits and had almost given up hope that they would be called back.
So few are left, though, that GM and UAW officials have said the plant will need to hire new workers from the community to fill some of the jobs created by the addition of the two new product lines.

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