Sunday, July 30, 2006

Report helps lift workers' spirits

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Report helps lift workers' spirits
Optimism, employees say, was tempered with awareness that there's still a lot of work to do.
Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A rare wave of optimism swept through General Motors Corp. Renaissance Center world headquarters and elsewhere throughout the company on Wednesday as news of better-than-expected earnings spread to employees.

GM's $1.2 billion second-quarter operating profit -- a $1.4 billion improvement from a year ago -- gave workers some good news to discuss in the office, over lunch and on factory floors.

At the RenCen in Detroit, workers packed into managers' offices and break rooms to hear a taped announcement by GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner explaining what the numbers mean for the company. GM typically makes such announcements when quarterly earnings are announced.

"Sales are up. It's exciting," said Rob Skillman, a contract GM employee who works in the RenCen. "It's what everybody's talking about."

Inside the building on Wednesday morning, workers watched the 30-minute taped message by Wagoner, which was followed by another presentation geared toward the company's North American and regional operations. GM has been making the announcements to communicate with workers for about 15 years, typically airing them each quarter, GM spokesman Robert Herta said.

"A lot of us watched the broadcast and felt optimistic afterwards," Herta said. He said GM also worked to spread the word through managers and the company's intranet.

"We walked away with the idea that we bottomed out and have now turned a corner and are going up," said a GM white-collar worker who didn't want to be named. "There was a lot of energy and excitement. We didn't know it was going to be that good."

The peppiness, several employees said, was tempered with awareness that much work needs to be done to turn GM around.

"People are cautious and they're looking at this quarter by quarter," Skillman said. "We'll see if it continues."

Others were more skeptical.

"One day we're doing bad and then one day were doing good -- it's hard to believe," said Frank Pena Jr., who works at GM's service parts operations in Swartz Creek. "Whether they lose money or make $10 billion, I think the attitude is that it doesn't really affect us. We're not going to get better pay or benefits if they make money."

You can reach Sharon Terlep at (313) 223-4686 or

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