GM hiring temps at lower wages

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DETROIT- General Motors Corp., on the verge of shedding thousands of hourly jobs through its early retirement offer, has started hiring temporary workers at some North American plants to ease the transition to a smaller work force.

The temporary workers will be UAW members, but they will be paid lower wages of $18 to $19 an hour with no benefits. That’s the amount GM pays short-term workers and summer help, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

It is not clear how many temporary workers GM will need to hire, he said. But a labor expert said it is likely to be far more than during a typical summer.

“Temporary workers have been used in the past. The scale of temporary workers this time is unusual,” said Harley Shaiken, a University of California professor who specializes in labor issues. “This is a complicated transition.”

Thousands of GM’s 113,000 hourly workers in the United States are expected to sign up for the automaker’s early retirement or buyout before the June 23 deadline. Earlier this month UAW Vice President Richard Shoemaker said at least 12,000 GM workers had agreed to the attrition offer, and some Wall Street analysts expect that ultimately 30,000 could go.

Based on expectations that many workers will accept the attrition offer, Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy raised his recommendation on GM’s stock from neutral to buy Wednesday.

“GM and its shareholders are clearly better off if buyouts are widely accepted, as are workers,” Murphy wrote in a note to investors. “A worker accepting the buyout is contributing to the health of GM making their future benefits more secure, especially versus the worst case scenario of a bankruptcy.”

The Merrill Lynch report fueled a more than 8 percent jump in GM’s stock price Wednesday. It climbed to $26.51, up $2.03 for the day.

Flores said it is too early to tell how many workers will be leaving.

“More and more people are getting interested in it,” said Jim Kaster, president of UAW Local 1714, representing workers at GM’s metal fabrication plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

He said about 260 of the 1,460 workers at the plant signed papers to take the offer. “I’m hoping we get 300, and I think we will,” Kaster said.

GM’s Flores said eventually GM and Delphi Corp. workers will replace many of the temporary workers the automaker is hiring.

As part of a deal GM struck with the UAW and Delphi in March, the carmaker agreed to hire up to 5,000 workers from the auto-parts supplier. Delphi is trying to shed jobs and cut costs to emerge from bankruptcy.

GM has about 8,000 workers in the jobs bank who are paid wages and benefits even though they were laid off. Many will transfer to job openings.

Permanent GM hourly workers typically make $26 to $27 an hour, plus benefits.



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AP-NY-05-24-06 2003EDT


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