Talks intensify as GM strike's impact spreads Local parts suppliers to Baltimore plant begin own layoffs

'They are still in there'

Extended bargaining in Ohio raises hopes that accord is near

March 19, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Round-the-clock talks between General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers continued into this morning as negotiators struggled to reach a settlement to a 14-day strike that has nearly halted the automaker's North American production.

Industry observers said the marathon bargaining session at a Dayton, Ohio, brake factory suggested that a resolution might be near. The latest session, which started at 9: 30 Sunday morning, followed a 10-hour meeting Friday and a 12-hour session Saturday.

"It's definitely a good sign that they're talking," Dale Brickner, associate director of Michigan State University's School of Labor and Industrial Relations, said yesterday.

L Those close to the talks weren't saying very much yesterday.

"The talks continue," said James Hagedon, a spokesman for GM in Dayton. "That is all I can say at this time."

Mr. Hagedon said both sides agreed to "a news blackout in an attempt to focus attention at the bargaining table."

A union member at the striking UAW Local 696 hall said: "They are still in there." He declined to speculate if the long session was a sign of progress.

"Let's hope it's a sign of progress," said David Underwood, manager of the A. O. Smith Automotive Products Inc. plant in Belcamp that makes structural components for GM's Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari assembly plant in Southeast Baltimore.

At least four Maryland companies that supply parts to GM's Baltimore plant began laying off workers yesterday, including A. O. Smith.

Mr. Underwood said the Belcamp plant was forced to lay off 20 of the factory's 50 workers.

Marada Industries Inc., a manufacturer of structural components for GM's Baltimore plant, reduced its work force by 35 yesterday. Dan Quickel, assistant manager of Marada, said the company asked workers to volunteer for layoff.

FTC Mr. Quickel said the company may have to make greater personnel cuts later in the week if the strike is not settled soon.

GM's Baltimore plant accounts for about 28 percent of Marada's total production. Marada also makes parts for Honda, Chrysler Corp. and plants in Indianapolis and Cleveland that supply other GM vehicle assembly plants.

"We sure hope this thing ends soon," Mr. Quickel said.

Two other Belcamp companies sent workers home yesterday.

William Beddow, human resources manager at the Johnson Controls Inc. plant, said between 35 and 40 workers were laid off yesterday.

The plant, which produces seats for the Baltimore vans and foam cushions used in other GM and Ford vehicles, has 260 workers. Mr. Beddow said the plant would likely increase the number on layoff next week if the strike continues.

Officials of Monarch Manufacturing Inc., which has 115 workers who make the dashboard and consoles used in the Astro and Safari, could not be reached yesterday.

There were just six cars on the company's parking lot yesterday afternoon and a receptionist said only a cleaning crew was working.

GM's van assembly plant the city's largest manufacturing employer closed last Tuesday. GM laid off 2,600 of its 3,100 workers when it used up its supply of brakes. Salaried staff and plant maintenance personnel continue to work.

Marco Merrick, a spokesman for Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which administers unemployment benefits, said workers at the plants supplying GM are eligible for unemployment benefits.

"Their layoff is not their fault," he said.

Mr. Merrick said it was still too soon for the state agency to get a reading on the full impact of the Dayton strike on workers in Maryland. He explained that workers must be laid off for at least a week before they can file for unemployment.

As of yesterday, 25 of GM's 28 active North American vehicle assembly plants have been idled by the strike, along with 17 of the company's parts plants.

Economists at the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation estimate that the strike has halted work for 500,000 workers across the nation.

The number continues to grow. Caterpillar Inc. said it will close a plant in Mossville, Ill., that makes engines for GM medium-duty trucks next week and lay off 115 workers.

Bethlehem Steel Corp. said its Burns Harbor, Ind., division has been notified by GM to halt its shipments of steel to the automaker.

Bethlehem Steel said steel production will continue at the Burns Harbor mill to fill a backlog of orders from other customers.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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