GM chief to unveil plant cuts Loss of $3.5 billion, closed factory seen.

February 24, 1992|By John Lippert and Greg Gardner | John Lippert and Greg Gardner,Knight-Ridder News Service

DETROIT -- In a nationwide teleconference today, General Motors Corp. Chairman Robert Stempel is expected to open the next traumatic chapter in GM history -- including cost cutting to deal with a $3.5 billion loss for 1991 and plant closings that will spare Michigan's Willow Run assembly plant but could sacrifice a Texas factory.

Mr. Stempel also may announce other plant closings and comment on efforts to trim thousands of white-collar jobs, said GM and United Auto Workers officials who asked not to be named.

"You might as well get all the bad news out at once," said a GM official.

Mr. Stempel touched off a furor with a similar teleconference on Dec. 18, when he announced that the company would close 21 plants and cut 74,000 jobs by 1995. He gave few specifics but did say that GM would consolidate Caprice/Roadmaster/Cadillac Brougham production either at Willow Run or at a plant in Arlington, Texas.

At Willow Run, 2,300 blue-collar workers are optimistic, and happy that two months of uncertainty are coming to an end.

Workers have built stages to hold closed-circuit TV monitors that will carry Mr. Stempel's 10:30 a.m. speech. UAW and GM officials will answer questions afterward.

Jerry Clifton, bargaining chairman of UAW Local 1776 at the plant, wouldn't comment on specifics. But he and many workers predicted the plant will survive.

"General Motors is in the business of making money, and Willow Run is a place General Motors can make money," he said.

But UAW officials at the Arlington plant, which employs 3,200 blue-collar workers, also were optimistic.

They will watch the announcement in an auditorium in the plant.

"Everybody's confident we've got the inside shot," said Dave Perdue, president of UAW Local 276.

High-level GM and UAW officials and independent analysts expect Willow Run to survive. They say another product may be assigned to Arlington.

At today's teleconference, Mr. Stempel is expected to report a fourth quarter loss that will bring GM's 1991 red ink to about $3.5 billion. A one-time charge for plant closings and job cuts could add $3 billion to the loss.

GM officials have confirmed plans to move a variety of white-collar jobs out of the three car and truck groups, and into a new, centralized management structure for North American operations.

Details of the plan may not be announced until March, but today, Mr. Stempel likely will comment on the need for improved white-collar efficiency, officials said.

A GM spokesman declined comment.

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