Broening Highway van plant seems safe from closure about 37 job cuts expected

December 19, 1991|By Ted Shelsby &&HC 1/2

Detroit failed yesterday to make the nearly 4,000 workers at the General Motors Corp. assembly plant in Southeast Baltimore feel like rushing out to buy a new car.

But while there were no firm reassurances, the unofficial word is that the minivan plant on Broening Highway is safe, at least for the time being.

GM Chairman Robert C. Stempel said six North American assembly plants would be closed over the next four years, but he didn't identify those on the hit list.

Rodney A. Trump, president of Local 239 of the United Auto Workers union, said the Baltimore plant is scheduled to lose about 37 white-collar, salaried jobs as part of GM's corporate-wide cost cutting plan. The reductions, he said, would come through attrition and retirements.

Terry Youngerman, a spokesman for the Baltimore plant, declined to discuss the number of workers affected but said 37 is "fairly accurate."

While there was nothing in Mr. Stempel's comments that assured the long-term future of the Baltimore plant, Mr. Youngerman said.

"Realistically, I don't think we are one of those that will close. I can't say I'm absolutely sure," he said, "but I don't see it in the cards at this time.

"Down the road," Mr. Youngerman said, "I can't say."

He noted that there are very strong sales for the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans made here. Factory employees have been chalking up overtime to meet customer demand. "But the market can change any time," Mr. Youngerman said.

One worker who was rushing to his car to escape the biting cold yesterday barked out that he was happy that the Baltimore plant doesn't appear to be slated for closing now. But he noted that "GM is still under the gun," a reference to its on-going struggle to halt the erosion of its market share.

The Baltimore plant, too, may be under the gun. The vans produced here are due for a major restyling for the 1996 model year, and there is no guarantee that they will continue to be produced here. GM has said that "Baltimore is high on the list of contenders" for this work, but other plants also will be considered.

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