Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chrysler reins in retiree, buyout packages at North plant


May 14, 2007: A view of the Chrysler plant in Fenton.

Workers at Chrysler's North Assembly plant in Fenton are unhappy with Chrysler Group's decision to accept far fewer retirement and voluntary severance packages than workers had expected.

Shop stewards told union-represented employees Friday that the automaker will consider only 93 requests for either package, said Ron Davis, president of the United Auto Workers Local 136.

Davis was unsure of the exact number of workers who made requests, but he estimated that about 400 employees signed up at the north plant.

Davis said he planned to talk to Chrysler about accepting more requests. Chrysler originally said it would accept all requests for packages, though the timing of departures would depend upon each plant's operational needs.

It is unclear whether this signals a reduction in the overall number of job cuts expected at the north plant, which employs about 2,300 people to build Dodge Ram pickups.

In mid-February, Chrysler announced it would cut 1,935 jobs as part of a restructuring plan through 2009. Most of the job loss will come when the adjacent South Assembly plant loses one of its two shifts next year, though an unspecified number will be cut from the north plant.

There was no updated information on the status of retirement and buyout packages at the south plant, where about 3,300 workers assemble the Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans.

Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson declined to confirm the number of packages requested or accepted at either facility. She said acceptance of some packages would be delayed by workers' summer vacations.

The packages, negotiated by the United Auto Workers union, include a $70,000 incentive toward retirement for employees with at least 30 years of seniority or $100,000 for employees with more than one year with Chrysler who accept voluntary termination.

Retirees will keep health and other benefits consistent with their union contract, while the other workers would get six months of medical benefits.

Chrysler allowed workers to sign up for the packages at both Fenton plants through April 16.

This month, Chrysler said the companywide number of workers who accepted either the retirement package or the attrition package exceeded its goal.

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