Baltimore plant, others brace for possible closing due to strike GM ON EDGE, AGAIN

January 19, 1995|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Sun Staff Writer

For the third time in the past five months, production at General Motors Corp.'s Baltimore van assembly plant stands to be interrupted by a strike at an out-of-state parts plant.

This time the threat comes from the shutdown of the AC Delco Electronics East plant in Flint, Mich., which produces spark plugs, filters and other parts used in the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans assembled here.

The plant also serves most other GM assembly operations, as well Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. factories.

Charles C. Licari, a labor relations spokesman for GM in Detroit, declined to speculate on how long it would take before vehicle assembly plants around the country begin running out of parts and halt their operations.

Others within the industry have said it could be a matter of days.

At GM's van plant on Broening Highway yesterday, officials were busy taking inventory to determine how long its assembly line could remain active, a source familiar with the operation said.

"It looks like we have enough parts to last another 5 or 5 1/2 days," the source said. "My guess is that we can continue making vans until at least next Thursday."

About 6,600 workers walked off the job yesterday morning at the Delco factory when the company and the union were not able to meet a 10 a.m. deadline for an agreement on staffing levels.

Talks were scheduled to resume this morning.

General Motors suffered through five plant strikes last year, including two in the third quarter. The automaker said the shutdowns cost the company about $150 million in profits and the production of about 40,000 vehicles.

Last September, the Baltimore plant came within days of shutting down and laying off its 3,400 workers as a result of a strike at GM's Buick City plant in Flint, Mich., which supplies transmission parts.

A month earlier, it came even closer to shutting down because of a two-day strike at an Anderson, Ind., which supplies taillights and bumpers.

The strike forced the Baltimore plant to reduce production, but it remained open.

The Broening highway plant's last work stoppage was in August 1992, when a strike at a GM parts plant in Ohio halted production for eight days.

A work stoppage at the Baltimore plant would be felt throughout the metropolitan region. A number of area companies supply the plant with such items as seats, --boards and structural parts under a "just-in-time" inventory system.

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