White Marsh GM plant returning to work

June 12, 2008|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,Sun reporter

The General Motors Powertrain Baltimore Transmission Plant, shut down since April because of a strike at a GM parts supplier, will start ramping up production July 14 when it brings back 100 to 105 day-shift workers.

The White Marsh plant was one of about 30 GM factories idled by a walkout at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., resulting in thousands of layoffs. Workers at American Axle approved a contract May 22, ending the nearly three-month strike.

About 280 White Marsh workers were laid off during the strike. Another 20 who work on transmissions for GM full-size hybrid SUVs returned to work last week. Second-shift employees will return as demand increases.

The plant makes transmissions for GM heavy-duty pickups, a class of vehicles whose sales have been sagging in the face of sharply escalating gas prices. GM is waiting until after a company-wide shutdown that normally takes places the first two weeks of July to restart operations at White Marsh and said yesterday there was no date yet for when the second shift would resume.

"When the other workers will return will depend on the market," said GM spokesman John Rout.

Last week, GM announced thaat it would close four pickup truck and SUV factories and introduce a more fuel-efficient smaller car. It also said that it was eliminating 8,350 jobs.

A week before, the company said that it expected to produce 230,000 fewer vehicles during the second quarter because of the strike, which the company said hurt production of sport utility vehicles and pickups.

Production at the White Marsh plant stopped completely April 7 when workers stopped manufacturing a new hybrid transmission for the Chevrolet Tahoe. Production of the Ellison six-speed automatic transmission for the Chevrolet Silver ado and GMC Sierra stopped March 10.

The shutdown of GM's Arlington, Texas, plant, which built hybrid trucks with transmissions made in White Marsh, led ultimately to the plant shutting down.

The American Axle strike left GM without parts needed to build certain pickup trucks and SUVS, including three models made in White Marsh.

Workers in White Marsh have received state unemployment benefits and supplemental pay from GM, which equals 80 to 85 percent of their take-home pay, Rout said.

GM has said that the strikes at Axle and some GM plants will cost it about $2 billion before taxes in the second quarter.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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