GM may include car in retirement offer

DETROIT — DETROIT -- Hoping to cut costs and minimize layoffs, General Motors Corp. may offer older blue-collar workers a new GM car as an incentive to retire early.

In addition to other incentives being worked out with the United Auto Workers, GM is considering offering vouchers worth $15,000 toward the purchase of a new GM car. An additional $5,000 in cash would be thrown in when the voucher is used.


No such voucher was offered to salaried workers earlier this week, when GM announced that some U.S. and Canadian salaried workers would be allowed to retire at age 50.

GM and the UAW hope to announce the incentive package next week at meetings of plant-level UAW officials in Las Vegas, Nev.


There is a special urgency to the discussions: Both sides hope that more early retirements and buyouts of older workers will minimize layoffs of younger workers.

Yesterday, GM notified UAW officials in 14 plants, as well as various state and local governments, that up to 21,200 UAW workers could be laid off beginning in mid-January.

These workers are now assigned to a jobs bank program for workers whose jobs have been eliminated through cost-cutting. Those workers receive full pay but work with community groups or on special projects aimed at increasing efficiency.

But the jobs bank part of the $3.35 billion GM committed in 1990 to maintain the income of laid-off workers will, at present spending rates, expire in mid-January.

GM officials stressed that they do not know how many workers, if any, will be laid off.

Yesterday's notifications were made to comply with a federal law that requires a 60-day notice of potential layoffs.

In a statement, Gerald Knechtel, a GM vice president, described the notification as "a precautionary measure in the event our current 'jobs bank' income security commitment is exhausted." That was GM's first formal acknowledgment that the income security fund is in trouble.