GM strike shows hints of thawing Company, UAW temper comments on negotiations

'They are still talking'

More layoffs possible in Md. if Ohio walkout remains unsettled

March 16, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The United Auto Workers strike against two General Motors Corp. brake plants in Dayton, Ohio, entered its 12th day today with a slight hint that a breakthrough could be in the works.

"Something could happen over the weekend," said one source close to the negotiations who asked not to be identified. "I don't want to say there will be a settlement, because I don't want to end up with egg on my face, but it's possible."

Union and GM negotiators met yesterday.

"They have been talking since noon and they are still talking," a member of the UAW Local 696, who answered the telephone at the union hall, said at 6: 30 p.m. yesterday.

"Some people came down from the international [union], and there are people from GM's corporate staff in the meeting over at the plant," said the union member, requested anonymity because he is not the local's official spokesman.

Both sides were more restrained in their public comments yesterday. GM issued a short, prepared statement saying that the parties continued negotiations in Dayton and that the company's priority is to reach an equitable settlement as soon as possible.

"We have no further comment on the situation at this time," said Tom Klipstine, a GM spokesman in Detroit.

"We have no comment on the status of talks," said Reggie McGhee, a spokesman for the UAW's headquarters in Detroit.

A settlement would be welcome in this area. GM halted production Tuesday at its Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari plant on Broening Highway Baltimore's largest manufacturing employer and laid off about 2,600 of its 3,100 workers. Only a factory maintenance crew and the plant's salaried staff has been working.

The strike also threatens the layoff of hundreds of other workers at local companies that sup- plies the GM plant on Broening Highway with a variety of products.

Officials at Marada Industries Inc. in Westminster, and those of three companies in Belcamp Johnson Controls Inc., A.O. Smith Automotive Products and Monarch Manufacturing Inc. have said they may be forced to start laying off workers early next week if the strike doesn't end soon.

So far, the strike has idled 24 of GM's 28 active assembly plants in North America and resulted in layoffs of nearly 125,000 GM workers. The strike also has forced layoffs at thousands of GM suppliers around the country.

David E. Cole, director of the University of Michigan's office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, estimates that it has idled about 500,000 workers nationwide.

The one bright spot in the past 11 days has been GM's stock. Its price has held steady around $51-$52 throughout the strike despite analysts' reports of GM losing between $190 million and $250 million in lost profits each week.

GM's shares closed yesterday at $52.25, down 12.5 cents.

"If the strike is settled right now, it would take something like $250 million to $300 million out of first-quarter profits," said David Healy an analyst with Burnham Securities.

Mr. Healy said GM's stock price is responding to indications that the automaker may have more freedom to buy parts from outside sources in the future as part of a settlement. "This would add significantly to their profits," he said, noting that GM has the highest production costs in the industry.

The strike was sparked by GM's decision to buy anti-lock braking systems for its 1988 Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird sport coupes from an outside supplier. The union wants GM to limit such parts purchases.

Pub Date: 3/16/96

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