Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chrysler reopens buyouts to UAW

Retirement-eligible workers are focus


In a new effort to reduce its workforce, Chrysler LLC has targeted retirement-eligible UAW members at most of its factories by offering another chance at taking incentives to leave the company voluntarily, the Free Press has learned.

Just last week UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who heads the union's Chrysler Department, said it was unlikely that Chrysler would reach its goal of persuading 10,000 hourly workers to leave through buyout and early-retirement offers made earlier this year and indicated the company and union might need to change the offer to get more takers.

He declined to say if the automaker would meet its minimum goal of cutting the hourly workforce by 8,500.

Deadlines had passed for several thousands of UAW members to sign up for packages offered earlier. The automaker has not said how many people sought the packages or how many had been granted.

The company previously has indicated layoffs could be possible if too few people leave. At the New York auto show, Tom LaSorda, Chrysler's vice chairman and copresident, Wednesday told the Associated Press that the automaker was making good progress. "We've never missed a manpower reduction target," he said.

Most eligible workers learned of the renewed effort this week, said Chrysler spokesman Ed Saenz. He declined to say how many were offered a second chance at a package or the new deadline.

"We have reopened a window to select employees, this is primarily employees that are retirement eligible," he said. "There are some tweaks to that, it's not a significant change. ... We don't expect a large change from the current take rate," he added.

Chrysler's retirement package for eligible UAW members has included a $70,000 lump-sum payment. Saenz declined to say how the package has been changed.

Chrysler and UAW are said to be in talks about offering buyout and retirement packages to workers at the automaker's Mopar parts division.

The job cuts included a shift-reduction at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, which now has about 1,500 workers.

On Wednesday, Chrysler told the Detroit City Council's planning and economic development committee that the planned $373-million expansion at the Jefferson plant could lead to the return of one -- possibly two -- shifts at the factory.

The committee expects to vote on the automaker's request for a tax break next week, sending the issue to the full City Council for consideration.

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