GM wants to soften blow

By Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press

In this Nov. 27, 2018 photo, a sign is displayed at General Motors Lordstown West plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

In this Nov. 27, 2018 photo, a sign is displayed at General Motors Lordstown West plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

AP file photo

In an effort to ease the blow to the 14,000-plus employees faced with losing their jobs at General Motors, CEO Mary Barra is revealing a plan for assistance.

The plan, though, in part offering affected workers a shot at open jobs at GM’s other plants, rings hollow with GM’s UAW leadership.

GM said it has 2,700 open jobs at various factories available to the majority of those working at Maryland, Michigan and Ohio facilities. Roughly 3,700 U.S. production workers face their factories being idled, plus 2,500 in Ontario.

GM also said it will help in job searches, resume writing and other career counseling for the nearly 8,000 white-collar workers who will leave GM as it restructures its workforce.

It said it is working with Canadian GM dealers, colleges and other employers to help the 2,500 workers facing closure of the Ontario plant.

“Our focus remains on providing interested employees options to transition, including job opportunities at other GM plants,” Barra said in a statement. “We remain committed to working with local government officials, our unions and each individual to find appropriate opportunities for them.”

GM can offer the other factory jobs due to strong U.S. and Canadian economies, said Barra.

GM and Barra have come under withering criticism from President Donald Trump and politicians in Ohio and Michigan, but the company has been steadfast in saying that the cuts are necessary to position the business for market changes. The plants being closed made traditional sedans that have fallen out of favor as consumers shift to SUVs, and salaried workforce skills must shift to the high-tech future of transportation.

Promise criticized

“Sounds like GM has turned the PR machine on full bore to try to deflect criticism from all quarters of its plant announcements,” said Jon Gabrielsen, economist who consults with automakers and auto suppliers. “But how long can they keep claiming that people can move around for jobs elsewhere while industry volume is also on the decline and pretty soon there will be nowhere to send them?. It is going to be musical chairs with way too few open chairs left.”

Likewise, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said the GM employee relocation announcement is a false promise.

“Let’s not sugarcoat this. ‘Relocation’ is little more than a euphemism for ‘no job anymore’ for many of the workers being asked to choose between the community they love and their job,” said Evans. “Given the Poletown plant history, we’d expect better for Hamtramck and Detroit. We will do everything we can to help those impacted by these cuts find work in Wayne County.”

The UAW is unimpressed as well. Union leaders said the UAW’s current contract already requires the company to try to relocate workers affected by production cuts, and noted that communities losing the work will still be hurt.

The UAW contract also states that GM must pay moving costs for a move of 200 miles or more, but the workers still have to pay taxes on that money, this person said.

GM announced last month that its plants in Lordstown, Ohio, where it builds the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, and Detroit-Hamtramck, where it builds the Chevrolet Volt and Impala, the Cadillac CT6 and the Buick LaCrosse sedans, will be without product allocation beyond 2019.

Also, its factory in Oshawa and two transmission facilities will lose product allocation beyond next year. In total, some 6,200 factory jobs are in jeopardy.

“We have been clear that the UAW will leave no stone unturned and use any and all resources available to us regarding the future of these plants,” said UAW President Gary Jones.

Besides the 2,700 available jobs at its other U.S. plants, GM said it will provide training opportunities and access to tuition assistance to those people impacted.

It said more than 1,100 U.S. employees have volunteered to transfer to GM’s other U.S. plants and 1,200 employees are “eligible to retire,” which it hopes will mitigate the number of hourly employees who actually end up unemployed.

Who’s hiring

Here are the GM U.S. factories that have the 2,700 job openings. These jobs will support new vehicle launches beginning next year, GM said:

— Bedford Casting Operations in Indiana

— Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky

— Flint Assembly

— Lansing Grand River Assembly

— Toledo Transmission Operations

— Spring Hill Manufacturing in Tennessee

— Arlington Assembly in Texas

— Skilled trades jobs available across multiple locations

GM has invested about $22 billion in U.S. operations since 2009 and said these added jobs reaffirm its commitment to “maintaining a strong manufacturing presence in the U.S.”

Job search assistance

In addition to the plant closings, GM also intends to cut an estimated 5,750 salaried jobs in North America next year.

Those in GM’s white-collar workforce will be given outplacement services including job search assistance, career counseling, resume writing and interview skills. That’s also available to the 2,250 salaried employees who took GM’s voluntary buyout and those who get cut early next year. Many salaried employees at unallocated plants will have opportunities at other GM locations, GM said.

In this Nov. 27, 2018 photo, a sign is displayed at General Motors Lordstown West plant in Lordstown, Ohio. this Nov. 27, 2018 photo, a sign is displayed at General Motors Lordstown West plant in Lordstown, Ohio. AP file photo

By Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press

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