Things seemed normal at the sprawling General Motors complex in Southeast Baltimore yesterday afternoon.
There was the familiar clang, clang, clang of metal hitting metal and great puffs of bright yellow sparks from robotic welding machines. Clusters of steel slowly took on the form of Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari minivans as they moved along the miles of assembly line.
But unless something changes over the weekend, this could all come to an abrupt end sometime Monday morning as the big plant runs out of the parts it needs to produce the typical 47 minivans an hour.
The Baltimore assembly plant is one of several within the GM manufacturing system caught up in the strike over job security, health and safety issues by about 2,400 members of United Auto Workers union against a key parts production plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
After a meeting of materials handling managers at the Broening Highway plant yesterday morning, Terry Youngerman, a plant spokesman, announced that production is scheduled to come to a halt sometime during the first shift Monday.
At that time, about 3,000 workers would be laid off without pay.
Mr. Youngerman said the end of production would likely come three to four hours into the work shift beginning at 6 a.m.
"After that," he said, "the ballgame is over until we get more parts. We're at the mercy of what happens at Lordstown."
He explained that the Baltimore plant would be idle until the strike ended because it depends on the Lordstown factory for minivan body components, including the frame structures that hold the doors.
GM announced yesterday that the two sides resumed negotiations yesterday. The talks had broken off Thursday morning after an all-night session.
Linda Cook, a GM spokeswoman, said the two sides had not resolved the issues as of yesterday afternoon, but she drew at least some encouragement from the fact that the talks are slated to continue today.
Baltimore's is not the only assembly plant to feel the pinch of the Lordstown strike. GM has already halted production at a plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., which produces the hot-selling Saturn sedans, and at its Lordstown auto assembly plant, which employs 7,000 hourly workers who make Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunbirds.
The local impact of the Lordstown strike is also not limited to the company's assembly plants. Under GM's "just-in-time" inventory system, some parts suppliers who had moved to the region to be near the plant make two or three deliveries a day. Mr. Youngerman said yesterday that these suppliers were being told to hold onto shipments of such things as --boards, seats and structural parts.
One of these suppliers is Monarch Manufacturing Inc. in Belcamp, which makes the --boards for the GM minivans.
Steve Jones, the company's general manager, said the company might have to shut down its operation early next week and lay off its 80 workers if the Broening Highway plant halts production.
Several other companies, including Johnson Controls Inc., a Belcamp company that makes seats for the vans, and Marada Industries Inc., a Westminster-based supplier of structural components, indicated that, although they might not be forced to lay off workers immediately, a long strike could result in furloughs.
GM plants that could be affected
If the GM strike in Lordstown, Ohio, continues for several more days or a week, several other GM plants would be forced to stop or at least curtail production, because they depend on "just-in-time" delivery of parts from Lordstown.
Those plants include:
* Baltimore plant that makes Chevroltet and GMC midsizes vans.
* Wilmington, Del.,plant that makes Chevrolet Corsica and Beretta cars.
* Flint, Mich., car and truck plants that make Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight cars and large Chevrolet and GMC vans.
* Orion Township, Mich., plant that makes Cadillac DeVille and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency luxury cars.
* Wentzville, Mo., plant that makes Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight and Buick Park Avenue sedans.
* Scarborough, Ontario, plant that makes large Chevrolet and GMC vans.
* Oklahoma City plant that makes Buick Century and Oldsmobile Ciera midsize cars.