GM idles more plants, Chrysler irks Canada union

By Michael Ellis, Reuters, Thursday 14 December 2000, 5:42 pm Eastern Time

DETROIT, Dec 14 (Reuters)—General Motors Corp. said on Thursday it will idle four North American plants and cut 150 jobs in Canada as the automaker cuts production in the face of weaker sales.

GM, the world's largest automaker, said it will idle its Lansing, Mich. plant, where the Pontiac Grand Am and Oldsmobile Alero are made, and the Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan., home of the Oldsmobile Intrigue and Pontiac Grand Prix. About 8,700 workers at the plants will be affected by the one-week shutdown.

The temporary plant shutdowns come two days after GM said it would phase out its 103-year-old Oldsmobile brand over the next few years because of consistently poor sales. GM also announced plans to cut more than 16,000 jobs worldwide.

GM will cut 150 jobs through attrition at its Ste. Therese plant in Quebec, which makes the sporty Camaro and Firebird models, spokeswoman Faye Roberts said.

In addition, about 400 workers will be told not to report to work for the first two weeks of 2001 at the St. Catharines, Ontario engine plant.

GM will also shut down the car plant in Oshawa, Ontario where the Buick Century and Regal as well as the Chevrolet Lumina are made, for the last two weeks of January, affecting some 2,500 employees. Overtime at its Oshawa full-size pickup truck plant, which employs 3,300 workers, will also be eliminated in the first quarter, the automaker said.

This is very concerning because it takes money out of our members' pockets, Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) spokesman John Graham told Reuters.

Roberts said GM Canada will cut vehicle production in the first quarter by 16 to 17 percent from the first quarter earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the head of the CAW union wrote in a letter to the new head of DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit that he was deeply concerned about the company's decision to idle the Windsor, Ontario minivan plant next week.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove said in a letter to Chrysler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche that he had agreed in a November 28 meeting not to take any actions of a negative nature until after Christmas.

This is clearly not a great start to a relationship with you and your new management team. We accepted your commitment that dialogue would be held before final decisions were made, said Hargrove, in a copy of the letter released to the media.

Chrysler said on Wednesday that it will shut the plant next week to prepare the facility to build an additional vehicle, believed to be a sport-wagon code-named CS.

In the company's view, what we're doing in Windsor next week reinforces the future of the plant and the future of the workforce by preparing the plant to eventually build a new model, Chrysler spokesman Trevor Hale said.

In addition, Ford Motor Co. said it will idle two U.S. car plants next week—its Chicago plant where the mid-sized Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable cars are made, and the Wixom, Mich. plant where the Lincoln Continental, LS and Town Car are manufactured.