Extra shifts due at GM site Van plant schedules workers for overtime until holiday break

Making up for lost time

December 19, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

General Motors Corp., which has been cutting back on production at its Baltimore van plant this year, has shifted gears and scheduled employees to work overtime, a company spokesman said yesterday.

The plant will operate two full shifts today and a half-hour overtime on each daily shift next week until the plant closes on Wednesday for the holiday season.

"The increased work is to make up for some lost production during the work stoppage earlier this year," said Joseph Jacuzzi, a spokesman for GM's Truck Group in Pontiac, Mich.

The Baltimore plant was closed for 67 days beginning in mid-June by strikes at two key GM parts plants in Flint, Mich.

Charles R. Alfred, president of United Auto Workers Local 239, which represents the 2,800 hourly workers at the plant, said the overtime is also scheduled to make up for a shift and a half of lost production about a month ago due to a shortage of parts from a supplier.

The GM plant is the city's largest manufacturing employer. Earlier this year it employed as many as 3,100 hourly workers. Alfred said employment has been reduced through attrition and layoffs.

In June, when GM cut the number of vans produced at the plant each hour from 53 to 50, about 125 workers were laid off.

Despite the current boost in overtime, Jacuzzi said the company still plans to proceed with a previously announced cutback in production during the first quarter of next year.

In November, GM said it would trim output of the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans made here by 10 percent.

Beginning in mid-March, the plant will build 45 vans per hour, according to Jacuzzi. He attributed the slowdown to declining sales.

It has not yet been determined how many workers will be affected by the scheduled reduction.

GM has also closed the plant several times this year to help bring output in line with sales demand. Production was halted for a week in February and again in May.

The Astro and Safari face fierce competition from other vans and sport utility vehicles, according to David E. Cole, director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation. Cole said that the vans also suffer from not having had a major redesign since they were introduced in 1984.

Sales of the Astro and Safari totaled 174,815 units last year, down 5.4 percent from the previous year, according to Automotive News.

Sales for the first 11 months of this year are about 19.5 percent behind last year's pace.

Other companies in the metropolitan area that supply parts to the GM assembly plant, including Monarch Manufacturing Inc. in Belcamp and Marada Industries Inc. in Westminster, will have to adjust their own production schedules to match that of the van plant.

The future of the GM plant, which economists say pumps about $1 billion into the region's economy each year, has been uncertain for several years.

GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John F. Smith Jr. told state officials in July that the Baltimore plant will remain operating for at least two years.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has established a panel of high-level administration officials to coordinate the state's effort to retain the 63-year old van assembly plant.

Pub Date: 12/19/98

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