GM laying off 209 line workers here


General Motors Corp. plans to lay off 209 production-line workers at its minivan plant in East Baltimore starting Monday, a GM official said today.

The workers will be on a "long term" layoff that could last 36 weeks, according to Terry Youngerman, personnel director at the Broening Highway plant.

He said the layoffs are intended to cut production of Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans due to "lack of sales."

The plant has already cut production by shutting down for two weeks this month. It is scheduled to reopen Monday.

Layoffs will be based strictly on seniority, Youngerman said. Workers will be notified by phone or mail.

Another 100 of the plant's approximately 3,250 employees will be taken off the line but will not be laid off. Instead, they will be transferred to a jobs program, said Rodney Trump, president of Local 239 of the United Auto Workers Union. The program is part of an agreement between the union and the company to provide work that is "other than traditional" line production.

"We would use the opportunity to increase human development," Trump said.

Employees in the jobs program will receive their regular pay and benefits, Trump said.

Laid-off employees will get a sizeable amount of their existing pay because of $4.2 billion in income guarantees in the national contract between GM and UAW that was ratified last September.

Workers are entitled to supplemental unemployment benefits from the company and the union in addition to their unemployment pay, according to Trump. He declined to reveal what percentage of a worker's pay is received during a layoff.

However, Youngerman said laid-off employees get "somewhere in the neighborhood of about 85 percent of their base pay."

The contract limits a long-term layoff to 36 weeks but Youngerman said "it goes without saying that should business conditions improve . . . I would assume that those people could be called back sooner."

Regardless of business conditions, Trump said the workers might not go back on the line. He said the layoffs are the "result of a line-speed reduction and efficiency move, simultaneously." Most likely, workers will be called back to the jobs program, he said.

Trump warned that the guaranteed pay for laid-off workers might not last the full 36 weeks if cutbacks at other plants deplete the fund.

"Say over these 36 weeks, plant after plant had layoffs or down weeks," he said. "As soon as that money is spent, then the 36 doesn't apply because you've blown the money. It sounds like a lot until you realize how many people we have at GM-UAW."

The three-year contract covers 300,000 workers in 29 states.

GM last week estimated that more than 1,800 people will indefinitely lose their jobs when production is reduced April 2 to one shift from two at the carmaker's Van Nuys, Calif., and Fairfax, Kan., assembly plants.

GM's sales were off 4.5 percent for all of 1990. In early January, sales of GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler vehicles fell an estimated 33.3 percent.

Though GM's Baltimore plant was down in 1984 for remodeling, this is the first extended layoff since 1982, Trump said. At that time, "some of our people were down for a couple of years," he said.

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