GM to return to full production, for a while
Since March, the local plant has cut its production of full-size sport utility vehicles by 50 percent because of a shortage of parts from American Axle, which the United Auto Workers struck in February.
American Axle and striking workers reached a deal May 16 that was ratified last week.
For many of those weeks, one shift worked at the local GM plant while the other was laid off. The pattern continued on an alternating basis.
Now the Janesville plant has been authorized to return to full production.
“On behalf of the leadership, thank you for your patience and cooperation throughout this tenuous time,” assistant plant manager Steve Kegerreis said in a Tuesday memo to employees. “Despite any production and/or communication challenges, the UAW/GM Janesville Assembly team managed the situation with professionalism while maintaining focus on our important … metrics.”
On June 26, however, two-shift production in Janesville will end for reasons that have nothing to do with the UAW strike against American Axle. A sluggish economy, high gas prices and overall changes in consumer demand have forced the automaker to cut production at several of its full-size SUV and pickup truck plants.
At the Janesville plant, that means the elimination of the second shift and the potential loss of up to 756 jobs. The cuts at GM also are expected to result in the layoffs of hundreds of other workers at GM suppliers in Janesville.
After a two-week holiday, workers in Janesville will return July 14 to an operation that builds 58 vehicles per hour on one 10-hour shift. In the two-shift mode, the plant was building 44 trucks an hour.
GM officials are uncertain how many workers the local plant will need to staff one accelerated shift. About 600 hourly workers signed up for a special attrition package by last week’s deadline, and they have until midnight Thursday to withdraw their intentions to leave the plant.
Before the early retirement/buyout program, the local plant had about 2,400 hourly workers. If the attrition numbers don’t change, the plant will have about 1,800 hourly workers.
Corporate officials, plant managers and union officials will ultimately determine the number of workers needed for one shift.
Also Tuesday, GM said it will escalate production cuts at a Flint, Mich., plant because of slow sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
The company announced in April it would cut the third shift in Flint as of July 14. But it said Tuesday that it’s unclear when the Flint plant will restart production after the American Axle strike.
But when it does, it will do so without its third shift.