GM workers go on strike in Mich. 3,000 walk off jobs

another 4,200 idled

September 26, 1992|By New York Times News Service

DETROIT -- About 3,000 workers walked off their jobs yesterday at a General Motors Corp. plant in Lansing, Mich.

The striking workers, members of the United Automobile Workers union, build bodies for the midsized Oldsmobile Achieva, Buick Skylark and Pontiac Grand Am models.

An additional 4,200 GM workers in Lansing, who make chassis for the cars, were idled shortly thereafter.

Ted Hartman, president of UAW Local 602, said the workers' most important grievance was, "They put too much work on a person, more than he can do."

GM declined to comment on the issues, but a spokeswoman, Linda Cook, said negotiations broke off yesterday and would resume today.

For GM it was the second important labor dispute in less than a month; a nine-day UAW strike in Lordstown, Ohio, led to shutdowns of nine assembly plants, including the minivan plant on Broening Highway in Baltimore, and losses of millions of dollars.

It is also a sign that GM is having trouble bringing about efficiencies. The automaker, which agreed to

elaborate income-security benefits for the union in 1990, wants to reorganize work and subcontract work outside of its own factories.

But local unions often contend that GM's actions violate their labor agreements.

"It takes GM 39 hours to build a car, and the Ford Motor Co. 22 hours," said Maryann Keller, an auto analyst for Furman Selz Inc. in New York. "The high-cost producer eventually goes out of business unless it figures out how not to be the high-cost producer."

John Casesa, an analyst for Wertheim Schroder & Co. in New York, estimated the strike would cost GM $1 million a day in net income.

Moody's Investors Service cited questions about GM's efforts to contain its labor costs and the probability of further labor disruptions at the auto maker in its announcement yesterday that it might downgrade $70 billion of GM's securities. The action by Moody's -- unrelated to the strike -- helped send GM's stock tumbling $1.50, to $31.625, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Labor negotiations over local grievances are also taking place at a GM headlight plant in Anderson, Ind. The union has not officially issued a strike notice; a walkout, however, could close nearly every GM assembly plant in North America.

In Lansing, in addition to charges of overwork, the union is disputing the way GM arranges rest breaks.

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