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February 5, 2019

GM wields white collar jobs axe

General Motors confirmed to local media on Monday it began cutting some 4,000 salaried jobs, mostly in North America.

By Olly Wehring

General Motors confirmed to local media on Monday it began cutting some 4,000 salaried jobs, mostly in North America.

A spokesman told the Detroit Free Press the process would be concluded over the next two weeks.

GM management is communicating with employees on the timing and procedure of the job cuts, part of a restructuring intended to save US$2.5bn this year. The spokesman noted that some areas have already made cuts over the past couple of weeks. 

"This will be implemented staff-by-staff and location-by-location over the next couple of weeks," Pat Morrissey told the Free Press. "We're not going to get into which departments and when and where it's happening. Some staffs have already implemented this over the last few weeks, but there's more of it this week and next week."

Some employees inside GM's Detroit headquarters received an email Monday morning from CFO Dhivya Suryadevara telling them "restructuring activities" were beginning and saying employees would be informed by their team leaders when the cuts are complete. 

"As you hear about employees that are impacted, please be mindful and respect their feelings. People will respond differently, so always take your cue from them," she wrote.

"Bear in mind that GM has adapted lessons from our past and we've thought about the individual throughout this transition. We want to preserve dignity to all employees by living our values and behaviours. We recognise that every individual will respond differently, and we will respect and acknowledge those differences."

Some nonunion employees in manufacturing said they were notified by management, said an employee at GM's Technical Center in Warren. This employee is familiar with the various departments at GM and said the engineering area had yet to be informed of its cuts.

An employee near GM's Vehicle Engineering Center in Warren reported seeing a full line of cabs there waiting to transport any terminated employees who had to hand over keys to company cars. 

The atmosphere inside GM at both its headquarters in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit and outlying GM offices in Warren or other regions was described as anxious by employees who talked to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity. 

Said one: "This cloud has hung overhead for months. I need it to go away so we can start functioning normally again." 

One of the memos obtained by the Free Press read: "Today we continue our restructuring activities, including employee separations, across North American locations. Please be assured that every effort has been made to treat our employees with the highest respect. We have thought through personal and professional needs and will provide our employees choices for how the process will work best for them."

It adds: "We all manage stress and emotion differently, and safety is a key element of our culture. As you know from your GM safety training if you see or hear something that may impact employee safety, please speak up."

An employee in GM's IT area, who asked to not be identified for fear of job loss, said most of the workers in that area had six to eight years' tenure and fear they would get very small severance packages. This employee said the eliminations were to start at 9:30 am EST and run in 30-minute intervals until 6:30 this evening.

GM's spokesman Morrissey told the paper severance pay would be based on years of service. He said for those with 12 years or more, the severance package is the same as the one offered late last year to the 2,250 employees who took a voluntary buyout, which is six months' pay and the continuation of health care benefits.

The white-collar cuts are in addition to manufacturing reductions announced on 26 November. That day, GM said it would idle five North American factories: Detroit-Hamtramck; Lordstown, Ohio; Oshawa, Ontario; Warren Transmission; and a transmission plant in the Baltimore area. In total, some 6,000 factory jobs are in jeopardy.

US and Canadian autoworkers are vigorously protesting those closures. 

Since GM announced last autumn it would be eliminating about 8,000 white collar jobs in North America, the company has been contacted by "dozens" of large companies over the past few weeks expressing interest in hiring people GM cuts, Morrissey said. As a result, it will be offering outplacement services for those affected to help them get another job.

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