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Janesville workers take GM buyout

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JAMES P. LEUTE
July 24, 2009
— The exodus continues.

More than 200 workers at the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville met Thursday’s deadline to take up the automaker on its latest early retirement/buyout program.


That’s on top of the 600 or 700 local employees who have transferred in recent months to other GM plants, said Andy Richardson, president of United Auto Workers Local 95.


GM’s latest special attrition program—its second of the year—ended at the Janesville plant Thursday afternoon. Shortly before the 3:30 p.m. deadline, Richardson said 215 workers had signed up.


It was likely a few more could trickle in by the deadline, he said.


This was the fourth special attrition program GM has offered since 2006, and all have been designed to slash the automaker’s work force.


In 2006, about 900 of the 3,600 eligible Janesville workers signed up. Last year, about 600 of the remaining 2,400 employees either opted for early retirement or a cash buyout.


Earlier this year, 624 of the 1,800 eligible workers accepted GM’s offer.


When GM made its first three offers, the automaker was headed toward bankruptcy, and the end of production in Janesville seemed certain. The fourth, however, was offered when GM was in bankruptcy and Janesville was one of three idled plants in the running to build small cars for GM starting in 2011.


GM ultimately awarded the small-car contract to its plant in Orion, Mich.


Speculation was that many of the 1,100 or 1,200 workers still on GM’s books would wait for the small-car decision before considering the buyout package.


With that decision made, local workers had three choices:


-- Sign up for the attrition package.


-- Put in for a transfer to another plant.


-- Ride state and union unemployment benefits for as long as they’d last with the hopes that GM might eventually crank up the local plant for overflow production.


GM is transferring more than 175 local workers to its plant in Fairfax, Kan. Richardson said there likely will be more openings in Kansas, where workers build the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse.


Richardson said 17 workers are transferring to the Fort Wayne plant, while another 20 are bound for Arlington, Tex.


The recent transfers are on top of the 140 or so who left the Janesville plant in 2008 or early 2009.


Those who signed up for the recent attrition package have seven days to change their minds.


BUYOUT DETAILS

Among the features of the latest early retirement/buyout program offered by General Motors are:


-- For employees with 30 years of service, GM offered $20,000 for production workers and $45,000 for those in skilled trades, plus a vehicle voucher worth $25,000. Employees would keep their GM pensions and health care benefits.


-- Mutually satisfactory retirement was available to employees who were at least 50 years old with 10 or more years of service. This option provided a pension payment and full benefits based on the employee’s age and length of service.


-- Employees with 29 years of service as of Aug. 1 could take advantage of a pre-retirement program in which they would receive gross monthly wages of $2,900 until they reach 30 years of service. Workers with 28 years would get $2,850 until they reach the 30-year mark.


-- Cash buyouts paid to employees who voluntarily quit and severe all ties with GM. Under this option, workers with 20 or more years of credited service or seniority get $115,000, while those with at least 10 but less than 20 get $80,000. Employers with fewer than 10 years get $45,000. A $25,000 vehicle voucher is included for all three categories.



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