Employees wary of taking offers in a rough economy

Employees wary of taking offers in a rough economy http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080118/BUSINESS01/801180346/1014
Jerry Goss didn't bite at General Motors Corp.'s last retirement and buyout offers and said he likes his job as a quality auditor at the Orion Assembly Plant too much to be swayed to take the next one.
As GM embarks on another round of retirement incentives, some workers say the automaker will have trouble finding takers, especially as the national economy sours and the outlook grows worse for Michigan.
"Everybody that stayed past the last one is still staying," said Goss, 52, of Burton.
On Thursday, GM said it expects to offer retirement and buyout incentives to 46,000 hourly workers who are eligible to retire.
GM's 2005 attrition program offered a range of incentives, including a $35,000 retirement bonus and buyouts of $70,000 and $140,000.
"I think they'd have to sweeten the package to get more people out," said Tony Stiel, a Pontiac Assembly plant employee who has worked for GM for 29 years.
Stiel, who has a 5-year-old son, said he plans to work at least a few more years before retiring. With gas prices and everyday expenses on the rise, Stiel said he doesn't want to risk getting into financial trouble.
"You take a chance of being on a fixed income," said Stiel, 48, of Lake Orion. "I don't want to go just for the sake of going. I want to make sure I'm in good shape financially."
The average age of GM's hourly workforce is close to 50. The company may be counting on that to prompt some acceptances.
That may be the case for Martin Shawl, who works at GM's powertrain plant in Bay City. Shawl refused the attrition incentives offered two years ago.
"I just felt like I was being pressured into retirement, and I wasn't really ready," he said.
But retiring in 2008, after 31 years at GM and supplier spin-off Delphi Corp., is something Shawl, 54, said he would consider.
GM also needs many of its more-senior workers to leave the company to make the most of a two-tier wage structure negotiated in its contract with the UAW last summer. But to attract enough takers, especially in Michigan, GM may need to offer more than just cash.
Michigan's unemployment rate rose to 7.6% in December, among the worst in the nation.
"If they would offer us a little more, something like Ford offered -- some schooling and half pay and benefits until we finish school -- more people might be interested," said Kandy O'Neill, a 38-year-old line worker at the GM plant in Lake Orion who likely wouldn't be eligible for an attrition package. "But with the threat of people losing their homes, I just don't think they can afford to do it."
Sandra Washington, who works at Pontiac Assembly, said she doesn't expect as many GM workers to take a retirement or buyout option as in the last round because many face financial difficulties.
"Who wants to leave that job to work at Wal-Mart or Meijer?" Washington said.
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