June 20, 2008

Nearly 800 General Motors Employees Take Buyout

By Thomas Gnau Staff Writer

MORAINE -- Facing an impending plant closure, 786 hourly workers at General Motors Corp.'s Moraine plant have taken payment to leave the automaker's payroll, union officials said Wednesday, June 18.

Taking buyout or early retirement options GM offered earlier this year are 662 production employees and 124 skilled trade employees, said John Harlow, shop chairman of the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communication Workers of America Local 798, which represents some 2,300 GM-Moraine workers.

"It's a large number," Harlow said. "Now we're going through the process of filling these openings."

Workers who were laid off from the plant in January have already been recalled, Harlow said. To fill openings created by the buyouts, some 270 workers laid off from the Dryden Road GM-Isuzu truck engine plant "are going to be considered for employment," he said.

New workers will be employed at $14.50 an hour, about 55 percent of the previous hourly wage. And they will receive health insurance benefits after seven months of employment, Harlow said.

A GM spokesman, Dan Flores, said he could not offer or confirm numbers for workers accepting buyouts, either for individual plants or nationally.

He said he may have more information Thursday.

Wendy Love, 40, was among those taking the buyout. The Riverside resident has worked at GM-Moraine since February 1995.

The separation is especially painful because Love hails from what she called a "GM family," with several relatives -- including her greatgrandfather, grandfather, grandmother and mom -- having spent at least part of their careers at the Moraine plant.

"I feel like I was looking out for my family," Love said. "And hopefully I made the right choice, but none of us know, due to the fact that they're not telling us anything."

Love said she wanted to know how much longer the plant has before it closes, what the prospects are for future products and whether a future buyout may be offered before the plant closes. The questions were weighty, given that she and her husband have two children still in college, she said.

She felt workers were forced "to make a rash decision quickly -- and that's basically what I did."

Harlow said current plans still call for ending production at GMMoraine by 2010 or earlier. But he added: "We're not going to give up on trying to secure new work."

GM buyout/early retirement options

Retirement, with pension incentives of $45,000 for production employees and $62,500 for skilled trades employees. They can choose lump-sum cash payments or other payments. Employees who have retired or will retired on or after Oct. 1, 2007, may receive the incentive.

"Mutually satisfactory" retirement, with a pension available to workers who are at least 50 years old with at least 10 years of service.

"Pre-retirement," available to workers with 26 to 29 years of service. These workers will have an opportunity to "grow into" a full 30-year retirement.

A cash buyout of $140,000 to workers with 10 years or more of service or $70,000 to those with less than 10 years.

Under all options, workers would be required to leave GM by July 1.

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