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Local GM workers predict many will accept buyouts

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GINA R. HEINE
February 14, 2008
— One Janesville General Motors worker predicts about 75 percent of local hourly workers with 30 years of work will leave the plant this year through buyouts and early retirements.

Nearing his 40th anniversary at the plant, Dennis Haldemann said he and many others had been waiting for Tuesday’s announcement, which had been hinted at for weeks.


The plan expected to help the automaker cut costs and hire lower-cost replacements follows an attrition program launched earlier this year for 5,200 workers at GM’s service parts and operations facilities.


Haldemann is counting down—98 working days—until he retires.


“I think it’s going to be pretty massive,” he said of workers accepting corporate offers.


Haldemann, who works first shift in medical placement, said a lot of seniority workers are thinking about or already know they will leave.


“Better take it while it’s here,” he said. “It’s an opportunity.”


Many employees said the decision comes down to individual situations, but many agreed that those with around 30 years likely would leave.


GM’s current offer takes either a retirement or cash buyout form. The retirement component will allow eligible employees to leave with small payments and full pension and retirement health-care benefits. While the buyout options offer more money, they don’t carry any future benefits.


The current offers are similar to those offered to GM’s hourly workforce in 2006, when more than 34,000 workers left after accepting buyout packages ranging from $35,000 to $140,000.


More than 900 Janesville workers—about 26 percent of the local workforce—accepted the 2006 offer.


Many of the local workers in attendance at presidential candidate Barack Obama’s speech at the GM plant Wednesday morning said they were planning to retire. That’s likely because seniority was the main factor in determining who could attend the event.


Ron McDermott of Milton has put 45 years in at GM and is ready to accept the retirement offer.


“I think the opportunity is better (than the 2006 offers),” he said.


The buyout offer comes at the right time for second shift worker Tom Stelter, who’s been at the plant for seven years. He is looking for a new career—something different from assembly work—and plans to probably accept an offer.


He’s been considering a career change since the last round of buyouts.



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