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Janesville workers take up buyout offer

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JAMES P. LEUTE
March 27, 2009
— Roughly one-third of the laid-off General Motors workers in Janesville have elected to leave the automaker under a special attrition program.

The automaker said Thursday that 624 Janesville workers signed up for the program.


GM offered $20,000 in cash and a $25,000 vehicle voucher to all 62,400 hourly workers in an effort to match employee levels with reduced sales.


Nationwide, about 7,500 employees accepted the offer by Tuesday’s deadline. They do, however, have seven days to back out of the deal.


GM’s most recent buyout offer was its third in three years.


In 2006, about 26 percent of the local workforce accepted an offer to leave the Janesville plant in exchange for packages that ranged from $35,000 to $140,000. Last year, 574 workers left with deals that ranged from $45,000 to $140,000.


Both the 2006 and 2008 offers included pre-retirement components that pay benefits as a bridge to full retirement at 30 years.


The just-concluded offer, however, did not differentiate between employees eligible for retirement at 30 years and those who aren’t. Retirement-eligible employees who took the deal will be able to continue their health insurance and retirement benefits. Those who weren't eligible for retirement took the cash and the voucher, surrendered health insurance and retirement benefits and severed all ties with the automaker.


With the 600-plus workers leaving, GM will have about 1,200 still on its books in Janesville, where production of sport utility vehicles ended in December.


In recent weeks, more than 70 local workers have transferred to a GM plant in Arlington, Texas, that continues to build the big SUVs. More than 160 Arlington workers elected to leave through the latest program.


Of the 81 GM facilities where GM made the offer, Janesville had the most employees sign up.


GM said it will fill job openings at other plants with current employees whenever possible. At facilities where new employees are needed, GM will hire individuals at an entry-level wage and benefit structure.


“These employees have many years of dedicated service to General Motors, and I’d like to personally thank them for all they have done for the company,” GM vice president Gary Cowger said in a statement.


Companywide, GM has shed more than 60,000 workers in its three attrition programs.



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