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Quarter of GM plant's employees leaving, but the work isn't

BY LULADEY B. TADESSE
THE NEWS JOURNAL
06/29/2006

Even though one in four workers at the General Motors plant in Delaware plan to leave the company by the end of the year, there will be no cutback in production, the company said.

The Newport-area plant will continue to operate three shifts producing the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. In the fall, it still plans to launch an Opel roadster for export to Europe.

"We have no plans to scale back production at all in Wilmington," said Dan Flores, GM Manufacturing spokesman. "The products we build in Wilmington are important to us."

The sports cars built at the plant have been part of the company’s turnaround plan for some of its ailing brands, including Saturn and Pontiac. The Solstice and more recently, the Sky, have helped add personality and attention to brands known more for practical designs.

Even if GM remains committed to the New Castle County plant, there are bound to be adjustments as 455 of its 1,750 workers accept early retirement and buyout packages. Some of these workers already have left the company and are being replaced by temporary workers and transfers from other plants.

"You are going to see a change in the culture of the organization," said Steve Quindlen, a former GM worker and director of the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

For many years, there have not been any new workers added to the GM plant. Most of the workers hired as temporary help in the summers have previously worked on the assembly line and were on long-term layoff. Those who accepted the new packages will not be eligible for rehire as temporary workers.

A new group of temporary workers with little or no auto manufacturing experience may be joining the company and getting paid $18 to $19 an hour with no benefits, compared with the older workers who earn about $27 an hour or more with full benefits.

Company managers would not say how many temporary workers and employees from other GM plants will be filling the positions being vacated.

"We are going to bring in temporary workers on a case-by-case basis," Flores said. "They will serve pretty much as a bridge until we can get current GM employees at other facilities or current GM employees in the jobs bank or Delphi employees."

Delphi is General Motors' former auto parts division.

Some analysts are concerned that if the company doesn't manage its transition well, the quality of the cars, production, even morale will suffer.

"It will depend a lot on how each of the manufacturers handles the indoctrination and process of bringing people into the plants," said Bruce Belzowski, assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.

"You can't help but think the people who are staying still feel this is a company under siege," he said. "You would think there is a certain amount of uncertainty in terms of morale by the people who are staying."

But Quindlen, who worked at the GM plant during past transitions, said he is not worried.

It may take time, Quindlen said, but things will get back to normal. A majority of the workers at the plant will end up being transferees, he predicted. Those who leave will not all go at once.

"They are going to do everything they can to protect the integrity of that product," Quindlen said.

http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060629/BUSINESS/606290333/-1/NEWS01
 

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Thanks for the post.

I wonder how you can cut 25% of the labor and still get the same quantity and quality of production. Also, as alluded in the article... Its apparent that GM's plan to change their image and more specifically Saturn's image with the Sky is catching on.
 
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