Personnel managers at the local General Motors Corp. van assembly plant are scrambling to find jobs for about 250 workers being recalled from layoff.
"There are not enough slots in the plant" for everybody coming back, plant spokesman Brian Goebel said yesterday as GM considered a number of options, including having workers perform community service, to earn their paychecks.
Under the terms of the national contract between GM and the United Auto Workers, assembly plant workers laid off last July are required to be recalled after 42 weeks.
Goebel said the returning employees are put in a "job bank," which he described as an administrative holding organization, until new positions are found for them.
"Some folks will work at volunteer organizations in the community, like soup kitchens," said Dan Flores, a spokesman for GM's Truck Group in Pontiac, Mich., which has jurisdiction over the Baltimore van plant.
He said that others will work at GM new-car dealerships in the Baltimore metropolitan area, helping with customer service.
Some will be paid to continue their college education. Goebel said that still others will come back into the factory and be involved in quality control or substitute for vacationing workers.
He said that nearly a third of those being recalled will come back into the factory to replace 90 workers who are scheduled to be shifted next month to GM's Allison Transmission factory in White Marsh.
Goebel said the plant is counting on attrition to eventually strike a balance between the number of workers it needs and the number of people on its payroll.
GM eliminated the second shift of van production at the Broening Highway plant last summer.
The last two-shift operation was June 30. At that time the plant closed for model changeover. When production resumed July 17, 2000, there was a single shift.
The second shift normally employed about 1,200 workers, but many of those workers transferred to the Allison transmission plant.
Only about 600 workers were laid off. Some were called back to work earlier to replace employees who had transferred to Allison.
The van plant is scheduled to close again this year during the first two weeks of July for model changeover.
The Allison plant employs 350 workers; most of them transferred from the van assembly plant.
GM has said that it plans a $199 million expansion of the Allison plant that would double its size and add another 390 jobs. Again, the bulk of them are scheduled to come from the van plant.
The plan was for the expanded factory to open in 2004, but in recent weeks the company has said that its expansion plans may be delayed if vehicle sales decline.
The White Marsh plant is gearing up for production of 140,000 automatic transmissions a year for use in light commercial trucks.
The 66-year-old Baltimore van plant faces a less certain future. GM has scheduled production of the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans made here only until the third quarter of 2003.
Beyond that, the company has said, the market for the vans will determine how long the plant remains open.