GM plant here again faces layoffs Strike threatens key parts supplier

October 08, 1992|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer jTC The New York Times News Service contributed to this article.

For the second time in six weeks, about 3,000 workers at the General Motors Corp. minivan assembly plant here face the threat of layoffs because of a labor dispute at a key GM parts supplier.

The latest threat comes from a plant in Anderson, Ind., that makes turn-signal units, tail lights and license-plate lamps for all 28 GM assembly plants in North America, including GM's Broening Highway complex, which makes the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari minivans.

The United Auto Workers union yesterday authorized about 3,400 of its members to walk off the job at the Anderson plant on Wednesday if the two sides cannot reach an agreement by then. Talks between the two sides have produced little progress over the past month.

Reg McGee, a spokesman for the union in Detroit, said Local 663 in Anderson was wrangling with the company on using subcontractors to make dies and to do repair work. "That costs jobs," he said.

Health and safety issues are on the table as well, he said.

Although a national contract remains in effect between GM and the union, Mr. McGee said, locals were permitted to strike over issues like subcontracting if the union's governing executive board approved. According to the company spokesman, the last time the two Inland Fisher Guide plants in Anderson struck over local issues was in 1974.

Late last year, GM said it would make broad changes in its manufacturing operations to cut costs, requiring the closing of 21 plants and the layoffs of 60,000 workers. GM has recently accelerated its white-collar-job reduction, and union leaders fear that more blue-collar jobs will disappear before talks on a national contract can begin.

It would not take long for a strike at the Anderson plant to affect GM's assembly plant in Baltimore, as well as most others around the country.

The Anderson plant supplies 95 percent of exterior lighting, except headlights, on GM cars and light trucks.

"We could probably last through the end of [next] week," said Terry Youngerman, a spokesman for the Baltimore plant. Mr. Youngerman said the Baltimore plant would have only a couple days' supply of parts in inventory or on the way from Indiana.

Mr. Youngerman said the Anderson plant was a "big-time supplier" of the Baltimore plant, providing three or four of the components needed to assemble the minivans.

A strike at the parts plant would also force the eventual shutdown of GM's assembly plant in Wilmington, Del., which makes the ChevroletCorsica and Beretta, according to Grey Terry, a GM spokesman. The Wilmington plant draws about one-fourth of its 3,200 workers from the northeast section of Maryland.

The local impact of a strike would not be limited to the two assembly plants. The two local plants operate under a just-in-time inventory system in which local parts suppliers make deliveries to the assembly plants as the parts are needed.

Under that system, area suppliers to the Baltimore plant are sure to feel the impact of a shutdown almost immediately. About half the production at Marada Industries Inc.'s structural components manufacturing plant in Westminster, for example, is for GM's Baltimore plant.

L Monarch Manufacturing Inc. in Belcamp makes --boards and oth

er plastic parts for the minivans. Two other Belcamp companies, Johnson Controls Inc. and A. O. Smith Automotive Products Inc., supply seats and engine frames, respectively, used in the vans.

In August, when a strike at a GM parts supplier in Lordstown, Ohio, forced the shutdown of the Baltimore plant, Monarch closed the same day and laid off its 80 workers. A.O. Smith closed a week later. Johnson halted seat production immediately, and about half its 200 workers took voluntary layoff. The rest helped clean and maintain the plant.

Rodney A. Trump, president of UAW Local 239 in Baltimore, said the union's move yesterday in issuing GM a five-day strike letter "will put pressure on both sides to settle. It says, 'You now have a deadline to meet or everybody loses.' There are no winners in a strike."

The strike at the Lordstown plant in August forced the closing of nine U.S. assembly plants and idled more than 50,000 workers. Its victims included GM's hot-selling Saturn cars, made in Spring Hill, Tenn.

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