Saturday, June 17, 2006

GM Moraine will continue building SUVs

GM Moraine will continue building SUVs
The world's largest automaker says it will not end the SUV production at Moraine in 2008 as it once said.
By John Nolan

Staff Writer

MORAINE General Motors Corp. will continue building its current lineup of midsized sport utility vehicles at its Moraine Assembly plant indefinitely, rather than ending the work in 2008 as previously planned, GM said Friday.

That's good news for the union in the short term, but in the long run, the plant needs new assembly work to keep it going, said David Healy, an auto industry analyst with Burnham Securities Inc.

Brenda Hayden, president of Local 798 of the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America, which represents Moraine's hourly employees, declined to comment.

Separately, GM said that enough workers have participated in an early retirement incentive program offered to IUE-CWA members that layoffs will be dramatically reduced when Moraine's third production shift is eliminated after June 30.

Months ago, the company said it expected about 1,150 of Moraine's 4,150 jobs to be affected by elimination of the third shift, which is ending because of slumping demand for SUVs. But because so many IUE-CWA members have decided to leave under the attrition program GM offered, fewer than 20 skilled-trades hourly workers will be affected when the shift is ended, company spokeswoman Jessica Peck said.

GM is working to reduce the number of salaried-worker layoffs by offering those employees transfers to other GM locations or incentives to retire, Peck said.

GM will make the design changes necessary in the current lineup of Moraine-built SUVs to comply with stricter government clean-air requirements that take effect in 2008, GM spokesman Tom Wickham said.

The current lineup includes the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Envoy Denali, Buick Rainier, Isuzu Ascender and Saab 9-7X.

Wickham declined to say how long the production will continue. He said GM considers Moraine a productive plant and is looking for new opportunities for it.

IUE-CWA members at Moraine agreed in April to a new contract to give GM more flexibility in operations there.

After the contract was approved, the company said it would ask its board of directors to OK plans to build a next-generation line of midsize SUVs at Moraine. Now, GM won't discuss the status of plans for the next-generation models.

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