GM to hourlies: last chance for buyout deals
General Motors expects the current round of hourly worker buyouts to be
its last -- workers who don't take the deal face the prospect of future
cuts without such a safety net.
"It's unlikely we'll have another attrition program," said GM spokesman
Tony Sapienza today.
The automaker hopes the latest buyout program will yield enough savings
that further programs wouldn't be necessary. But the veiled threat is
that future cuts in workers may not include incentives.
GM is using buyouts and retirement incentives to cut its work force as
the carmaker tries to prove its long-term viability to federal
officials. On Tuesday, Feb. 17, GM and Chrysler LLC have to present to
the government business plans proving their viability as part of a $17.4
billion federal loan commitment to the companies.
The automakers are being told to bring their labor costs in line with
the Japanese transplants. Bondholders, suppliers and dealers also are
expected to make sacrifices.
First-quarter production cuts of more than 50 percent have added to the
urgency of slashing employment at GM's factories.
22,000 eligible to retire
GM believes its prospects are good for a decent take rate on the
buyouts, Sapienza said. Of the company's 62,000 UAW-represented U.S.
employees, about 22,000 are eligible to retire, he said.
To coax those workers to leave, GM is offering $20,000 cash and a
$25,000 voucher for a GM vehicle. Another part of the incentive program
allows workers 55 years and older with at least 10 years of service to
retire with full retirement benefits.
Workers not eligible for retirement who take a buyout get $20,000 cash
and a $25,000 vehicle voucher. They won't receive retiree health care
benefits, only their accrued pension.
GM sees no further buyouts on the horizon because reductions from the
current program are likely to bring the work force to a sustainable
level once car sales return to more normal levels, Sapienza said.
At some point, the carmaker hopes to be able to hire so-called two-tier
workers who will earn about half the $28 an hour paid veteran workers.
Those two-tier workers also will receive half the benefits of veteran
GM's current round of buyouts is less generous than those of last year.
Retirees received their $45,000 all in cash last year. Those taking a
buyout while relinquishing future retiree health care received $100,000
in cash. About 18,000 left under both programs in 2008.
This year, GM's buyout offerings are more limited because of the
company's strained finances and the automaker's inability under the
federal loan agreement to use its pension fund to pay the incentives. GM
paid its participants from the pension fund last year, Sapienza said.
Chrysler is offering a buyout program similar to GM's but with heftier
Retirement-eligible Chrysler workers who leave will receive a $50,000
incentive plus a voucher of $25,000 for a new Chrysler vehicle.
Chrysler workers not eligible for retirement who take a buyout get
$75,000 and a $25,000 car voucher, and no retiree health care benefits.
The recently announced end of the Detroit 3 Jobs Bank also might prod
workers to retire.
That safety net allowed idled workers to earn about 95 percent of pay
and benefits after they had exhausted state unemployment and
Without the Jobs Bank, idled workers have just 48 weeks to collect
unemployment and supplemental benefits that together bring pay to about
72 percent of regular take-home.
Sapienza said as part of its restructuring talks with the UAW, GM is
talking about the future of company-paid supplemental benefits.