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Effect of news of layoffs is unclear here


Published: Mon, March 27, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


'Black Tuesday' this week is expected to affect only GM's engineering staff.
STAFF/WIRE REPORTS
LORDSTOWN -- Whether General Motors' anticipated white-collar firings this week will affect operations here is unclear.
GM told its engineering staff last week that all leaves have been canceled. Staff has been ordered to report for work Tuesday morning -- with company cars and keys.
Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 here, said he is unsure how many engineers work at the Lordstown facility. He said the union has no official position on the white-collar cuts.
Instead, he said, it is focusing on the buyouts GM is proposing for hourly workers.
GM proposed the buyouts last week as part of its goal of cutting 30,000 jobs by 2008. It is offering 113,000 workers between $35,000 and $140,000.
Graham said union officials were traveling to Detroit today for updates on the buyouts, and while they are there, they may be informed about the white-collar cuts. So far, he said, there has been no official notification about those cuts from the company.
Officials at the Lordstown plant were unavailable Sunday to comment.
What insiders say
GM wouldn't comment on what will happen Tuesday, but insiders said only the engineering staff is affected -- for now. They also said cuts in other departments, including sales and marketing, would come later, perhaps as early as next month.
GM has about 36,000 salaried workers, including an unspecified number of contract workers. About 2,800 positions were cut in 2005, including 500 contract workers.
Since 2000, GM's salaried work force has dropped from 44,000 people, largely through retirement and attrition.
Analysts say the timing of white-collar reductions so soon after announcing the union buyouts is significant. It shows the United Auto Workers, which represents hourly workers, that the salaried work force is making sacrifices to return North American operations to profitability.
Only days ago, GM revised its loss for last year, kicking it up by $2 billion, to $10.6 billion.
GM Chairman Rick Wagoner said last November that part of the automaker's $7 billion restructuring costs included $1.5 billion to eliminate up to 7 percent of the salaried work force in 2006 through attrition and involuntary separation. He didn't set a timetable.
The engineering meeting, which is being referred to as "Black Tuesday," puts the white-collar job cuts in motion while the automaker consolidates engineering operations worldwide as part of its global strategy to cut costs by eliminating redundancy.
There's no word on how many of the hundreds of engineers will be pink-slipped as part of the 7-percent white-collar reduction.


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