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December 17, 2018

GM offers new posts to most ‘unallocated plant’ workers

General Motors expects to be able to offer new posts to about 2,700 of the 2,800 hourly employees affected by plans to halt production at four US plants next year, a Detroit paper reported.

By Olly Wehring

General Motors expects to be able to offer new posts to about 2,700 of the 2,800 hourly employees affected by plans to halt production at four US plants next year, a Detroit paper reported.

But some of those people would have to move across the country to keep working in GM plants. And that doesn't save the plants that GM plans to idle,  United Auto Workers officials and analysts told the Detroit News.

"This is a really hard decision for folks to make but it's gone on in UAW-GM history forever," said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labour and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "It all comes down to whether they are willing to sever rights to recall to their home plant."

The paper noted the automaker in 2019 will pull product from five plants in the US and Canada which will lead to layoffs at those facilities. Four of the factories are in the US and employ about 2,800 hourly workers, according to data released last Friday by GM. There are open positions at seven other GM plants, some of which would call for workers displaced by idled plants in Michigan, Maryland and Ohio to uproot and move to a new state.

"We have been clear that the UAW will leave no stone unturned and use any and all resources available to us regarding the future of these plants," UAW president Gary Jones said in a statement cited by the Detroit News.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg noted the out of state job offers do nothing for UAW workers with roots in their communities. 

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Some GM line workers in Metro Detroit would have the option to commute to  other plants in Toledo, Flint or Lansing but some could be offered jobs as far away as Texas. In extreme cases like that, workers could receive between US$5,000 and $30,000 to relocate, as negotiated by the UAW in the 2015 contract.

Lawmakers are furious at GM for moving to cease production next year at its Detroit-Hamtramck and Warren Transmission plants in Michigan; at Lordstown Assembly in northeast Ohio; at Baltimore Operations in Maryland; and at Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, the report said.

"I understand how GM's recent news is affecting our colleagues, families and communities," GM CEO Mary Barra wrote in a Friday tweet. "Our focus remains on helping employees. Today we have a plan for the majority of employees currently working at our impacted plants in Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Oshawa, Canada that includes job opportunities at other GM facilities. We're committed to doing the right thing, for the future of GM and our people."

More than 1,100 US employees have volunteered to transfer to other US plants when the four US factories currently making GM sedans and small cars go dark ahead of contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers next year, GM said Friday, according to the Detroit News.

Of the 2,800 people affected by the idled plants, 1,200 are eligible to retire, GM said. The automaker has 2,700 positions open in the US thanks to new vehicle launches in 2019. The automaker said plants in Lansing, Flint, Toledo, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas all need additional employees.

Considering the retirement opportunities and spots at new plants, all of those affected by the idled plants are accounted for. 

"GM has places for a lot of these people," Dziczek said. But, she said, "On net, there's fewer plants. There's fewer potential jobs."

The paper noted GM can't officially close any plants – outside of special circumstances – outside of negotiations with the UAW. GM decided to "unallocate" products at those plants, meaning the plants won't be closed, but they won't be building anything. 

The fate of the US factories won't be decided until UAW contract negotiations next year, the Detroit News said.

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