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Take the GM buyout, or play wait and see?

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JAMES P. LEUTE
June 13, 2009
— Will the fourth time be the charm for General Motors and its laid-off workers in Janesville?

The automaker hopes its latest special attrition package—its fourth since 2006 and its second of 2009—will continue to slash its workforce.


With an outside chance of future production, workers at the shuttered assembly plant in Janesville might look at the latest offer differently.


GM rolled out its attrition program this week. The automaker and union agreed to the plan when they amended their 2007 contract two weeks ago.


When GM made its first three offers, the automaker was headed toward bankruptcy, and the end of production in Janesville seemed certain.


GM is now in bankruptcy, but Janesville has been named as one of three idled plants in the running to build small cars for GM starting in 2011.


The 1,200 or so Janesville workers have until July 23 to decide whether to accept the latest offer and seven days beyond that to change their minds.


The program’s details:


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


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


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


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


In addition, about 1,400 skilled trades workers who took $20,000 in the spring to voluntarily leave will be paid more to make up the difference between what was offered then and the more lucrative packages being offered now. They will now be eligible for the $45,000 cash payment.


Wisconsin lawmakers met with GM officials Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to make the case for future production at the Janesville plant, which is competing with plants in Orion, Mich., and Spring Hill, Tenn.


GM also met with congressional delegations from those states.


The automaker said it will decide which plant will get the small car production in the next few weeks. That should still leave union workers in Janesville, Orion and Spring Hill with a few more weeks to make a decision on the latest attrition package.



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