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General Motors to Trim Pickup Production

The General Motors Corp. will trim the production of pickups at its Pontiac, Mich., assembly plant. In this regard, the automaker also plans to lay off an unspecified number of workers because of a slowing pickup truck market, the Associated Press reported.

The move will take place starting early September at the plant, which employs about 2,800 hourly workers, including 300 temporary employees hired to replace those who accepted buyouts and early retirement offers, GM spokesman Tom Wickham said last Tuesday. The number of workers who will be laid off has not yet been determined, he added, but the plant's assembly line speed will be reduced from 54.5 vehicles per hour to a mere 45.

GM is considering moving some blue-collar workers to another local assembly plant as it reduces production of pickup trucks made in Pontiac, reported The Oakland Press. GM officials said that they intend to trim production of the heavy-duty pickup trucks this fall to keep inventories of unsold vehicles in check.

The Oakland Press added that "temporary workers have become more common as automakers have used buyouts and early retirements to reduce the number of full-time employees they employ. Automakers would like to use more temporary employees because it helps reduce the cost of layoffs and makes it easier to adjust production schedules if the sales drop unexpectedly."

Wickham said that it was too early to say how many workers from the Pontiac plant will face layoffs because of the cuts in late summer or early fall. "We still have to talk with the union," he said. "I don't want to hazard a guess on how many face layoffs."

The Pontiac plant produces mostly heavy-duty GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups. The plant ensures the quality of the Chevrolet pickup fuel pressure regulator, engines, radiator, and the totality of the vehicle production "There's been a decline in the full-sized pickup market. We've seen a decline in the heavy duty side, which prompted the action we took," Wickham said.

Temporary workers would be laid off first and would receive no benefits, Wickham said. If it is necessary to lay off full-time workers, they would receive benefits or would have the chance to go to other GM plants nearby if there are openings, he added.

The largest American automaker also builds pickups in Flint; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Oshawa, Ontario; and Silao, Mexico. Production cuts are not scheduled for any of those plants, Wickham said. GM and other pickup manufacturers have been hurt by the intense competition and a nationwide slowdown in the homebuilding industry, said The Oakland Press.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), meanwhile, has criticized the use of temporary employees and negotiated limits on how and when the domestic automakers can employ them. Ron Gettelfinger, the UAW president, said that the union is not opposed to the use of temporary employees. However, temporary workers in the auto plants should have a clear path for becoming full-time employees with rights to health care, pensions and other benefits, Gettelfinger said Monday at a news conference following the opening of talks with the Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn.

Gettelfinger, who also officially opened negotiations with GM on Monday, said that he was not looking to make concessions: "We're going into these negotiations in an optimistic frame of mind."

Joe Laymon, the Ford vice president of human resources, said that the Dearborn-based automaker has to improve its competitive position. Competitors such as the Toyota Motor Corp. have a huge labor-cost advantage of nearly $30 an hour, Ford officials said before the talks started.

Meanwhile, Diana Tremblay, the GM North America vice president of labor relations, said that the company was looking at a variety of contract issues in the negotiations.

About The Author Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.
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