GM plant avoids weeklong layoff

The Baltimore Sun

Increased demand for some General Motors trucks has helped General Motors' Powertrain Baltimore Transmission Plant avert a weeklong shutdown that was to have started Monday, a local spokesman for the plant said yesterday.

The spokesman, John Raut, had said last month that the plant was planning to shut down and temporarily lay off all of its hourly workers for the week. The plant employs 238 people.

But demand for some company vehicles has improved, including the Chevy Silverado and Sierra pickup trucks, for which the Baltimore plant makes six-speed automatic transmissions, Raut said yesterday.

"That downtime has been put back into our schedule," he said. "It will be operational next week. That's all market-driven and based on customer demand of our products, and recently we have seen an increase in the demand of the product."

Raut said the demand has been fluctuating on a daily basis. White Marsh workers supply GM assembly plants with Pontiac six-speed Allison transmissions and a hybrid two-mode.

The president of Local 239 of the United Auto Workers, Fred Swanner, which represents the White Marsh workers, could not be reached yesterday.

The pickup in demand emerged as a bright spot in a week of otherwise grim news for financially troubled GM, which has seen its fortunes plummet. Shares in the company at one point reached a 74-year low yesterday.

On Tuesday, GM said it would need a total of $30 billion in federal aid in order to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection, up from a previous estimate of $18 billion and including $13.4 billion it has already received. It also said it would need to cut 47,000 jobs worldwide and close five more U.S. factories. Raut said those cuts will not affect the White Marsh plant.

Seventy-nine employees have been laid off in White Marsh since last year because of a slowdown in production at the plant.

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