GM strike starting to choke suppliers Panel maker in Belcamp lays off all 75 hourly workers.


As a strike by 3,200 members of the United Auto Workers against the General Motors van plant on Broening Highway enters its third day, the work stoppage is starting to affect local suppliers.

Monarch Manufacturing in Belcamp, which makes instrument panels for the GM vans, laid off all of its 75 hourly workers yesterday. Plant general manager Steve Jones said the workers would remain out of work as long as the strike continues.

"It's a losing situation for all parties involved," he said.

The strike comes at a time when the auto industry already is reeling from the recession. Jones said he fears a volatile labor situation at the local plant might prompt General Motors to close it.

Terry Youngerman, a GM spokesman, said it is too soon to tell whether the strike might affect the long-term viability of the plant. "I still maintain we have a very good work force. The plant has done a good job. I hope it [the strike] won't cast a negative light on the plant," he said.

Union and management representatives negotiated for several hours yesterday morning and were to resume discussions at 9:30 a.m. today. Neither side would comment on whether any progress had been made in the talks.

The union went on strike at 10 a.m. Monday, saying that layoffs of several hundred workers earlier this year left the plant short-handed and created dangerous conditions for the remaining employees. Union members also are complaining that workers are being denied vacations because the company says it cannot spare the workers.

Youngerman said about 30 union and company negotiators are meeting to resolve the issues. The negotiators include national representatives from the UAW and GM officials from Detroit as well as local union leadership and plant management.

In addition to dealing with the main negotiations, department heads and union representatives in particular work areas are discussing more specific issues.

Youngerman once again expressed hope that the strike would not last long.

An extended strike could jeopardize the jobs of workers at additional GM suppliers. The pace has slowed at Marada Industries, a company near Westminster that makes body components for the vans, according to Don Quickel, assistant plant manager. The company, which employs 190 workers, has rearranged its production schedule to make parts for Chrysler, Volkswagen and Honda vehicles, he said. That arrangement could last four to six weeks without affecting the work force, he said.

Johnson Controls Inc., which makes seats for the GM vans, offered its 175 workers the option of taking vacation time during the strike. Dennis Sisolak, manager of the Belcamp facility, said about half of the workers accepted the offer.

The remaining employees are attending training sessions and operating one manufacturing line. "We're trying to use our time as productively as possible," Sisolak said.

Edward O'Connor, vice president of human resources and public affairs at A.O. Smith Automotive Products Co., said company officials are keeping a close eye on the strike. The plant in Belcamp makes sub-structural components for some models of the GM vans. He said there have been no layoffs and no immediate plans to reduce the work force of 25. "The real question is duration," he said. "We're on a day-to-day assessment."

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