GM may add a third shift at Broening

April 29, 1994|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Sun Staff Writer

General Motors Corp. is considering around-the-clock production at its Broening Highway assembly plant, which could add up to 1,300 jobs, to meet surging demand for its vans.

The addition of a first-ever third shift at the 59-year-old plant is one of several options being considered by the nation's No. 1 automaker, said Linda Cook, a spokeswoman for the GM division that oversees the Baltimore plant.

The Baltimore plant employs about 3,200 workers, many of whom have been putting in more than 50 hours a week to keep pace with demand for the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari. Safari sales rose 18 percent last year, to 46,054 units, and Astro sales were up 8.4 percent, to 125,567, according to Automotive News.

Rodney A. Trump, president of United Auto Workers Local 239, said the GM plant has hired about 200 temporary employees in recent months as daily van production has increased.

A third shift was one of "a whole bunch of proposals" that management at the local plant has presented to the union for its consideration and approval, Mr. Trump said.

Another option being considered, he said, is what the company calls a "third crew arrangement," which would bring in additional workers without adding a third shift. He could not estimate how many additional workers would be needed for that.

Mr. Trump declined to say which option the union would favor, if any. Unionized assembly workers, who make up most of the Baltimore work force, make about $18 an hour.

Mr. Trump said the plant has been operating two 10-hour dailyshifts for some time and that workers have put in "a lot of Saturdays."

While he estimated that it would take an additional 1,300 workers to go to 24-hour production, Mr. Trump noted that many of these jobs might be filled by workers laid off from GM plants in other parts of the country.

The financial impact of increased production at the GM plant would be felt throughout the metropolitan area. The Baltimore GM assembly plant is supplied with parts by more than a half-dozen local companies.

At the Johnson Controls Inc. plant in Belcamp, for example, spokesman S. William Beddow II said that if GM added a third shift his company would have to do the same, adding 50 to 70 workers. The plant, which supplies the seats for the vans made in Baltimore, employs 210 people.

Marada Industries Inc. in Westminster would add 10 or more workers, said Dan L. Quickel, assistant general manager. Marada already operates three shifts a day and makes structure components for the vans.

In recent years GM has pumped about $1 billion into the Baltimorearea economy annually in payroll and purchases from local suppliers.

The automaker, which yesterday reported a stronger-than-expected first-quarter profit of $854 million, is boosting production at some plants after years of painful cutbacks. The company is even considering ways to save the Wilmington, Del., assembly plant scheduled to shut down in mid-1996.

Since the start of the year, General Motors has added third shifts at its full-size pickup truck assembly plants in Oshawa, Ontario, and Pontiac, Mich.

The popularity of the Astro and Safari has endured despite some poor reviews in recent years. The Astro has scored low ratings in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's crash test the past two years, and Consumer Reports' 1994 car buyer's guide reported that the Astro and Safari "suffer from clumsy handling and uncomfortable ride, and subpar reliability."

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