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Indefinite Lay-Off of 3,700 GM Workers Worries Massachusetts Town With PM-GM-Plant Closing

November 5, 1987

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Hours after General Motors Corp. announced it was closing its Framingham plant indefinitely due to sagging car sales, workers’ moods ranged from shock at the severity of the action to optimism that the shutdown would be only temporary.

GM said Wednesday it would close the Framingham plant and lay off 3,700 workers beginning Nov. 30 due to slow sales of the Chevrolet Celebrity and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera produced there. One of two shifts at a plant in Oshawa, Ontario, also was to be eliminated, idling 2,700 workers there.

″It will have incredible implications for the economy of this area,″ said Matthew Clarke, Framingham’s executive town administrator, who said the plant means about $200 million annually to the area.

GM said it will keep a few workers at the plant to maintain equipment so the plant won’t technically be closed and can be returned to production if necessary.

″This has happened before. We hope it isn’t permanent,″ said United Auto Workers union representative John Laperle.

Charles McDevitt, president of the United Auto Workers union local at the plant, said he didn’t think many people would be looking for other jobs because the feeling was that the plant closing would be temporary.

Joseph Nedrow, GM’s New England regional manager, said the length of the layoff depends on auto sales, which are monitored weekly. An optimistic estimate of when the Framingham plant could reopen is ″March or April,″ he said.

Nedrow said he was as certain as one can be about the auto industry that the Framingham plant would reopen eventually.

″We just made such a big investment there,″ he said, referring to a $223 million paint shop that went on line at the plant this fall.

GM spokeswoman Mettie Seabrooks said when the plant reopens ″depends on the market.″

However, industry analysts were much gloomier in their predictions, saying it was unlikely the Framingham plant would reopen because sales of the cars will continue to fall for the rest of the decade and GM already has selected other plants for the cars’ replacements in the early 1990s.

″There’s nothing to put in there. I don’t think the plant’s ever going to run again,″ said Chris Cedergren, industry analyst with J.D. Power & Assoc. in Westlake Village, Calif.

Carol Morgan, a 10-year assembly line worker at the Framingham plant, said workers were shocked at the severity of GM’s plans.

″We all felt only one shift would go down, not the whole plant,″ she said. ″The mood was pretty grim this afternoon. It was sad to see the workers, especially the young kids, reading the note on the board.″

Lucien Coty, a 24-year assembly line worker at the plant, was disheartened. ″If we can’t sell the cars, what can you do? If people aren’t going to buy the cars we make, we’re not coming back. It’s that simple,″ he said.

Gov. Michael S. Dukakis promptly announced that his administration would do all it could to help the GM plant resume operations as soon as possible.

″They tell me they hope to be back in production next spring,″ Dukakis said at a Statehouse news conference. ″... Obviously, they have a very, very strong commitment to Framingham because of their very large investment.″

The governor also said a relatively brief suspension shouldn’t cause a serious impact on the state’s economy, largely because the auto workers’ union contract guarantees most workers unemployment compensation equal to 95 percent of their regular wages, which average about $14 an hour.

GM also makes the Celebrity and Ciera at plants in Doraville, Ga., Oklahoma City and Ste. Therese, Quebec. The automaker said earlier this year it was increasing production at its Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant and that some of those cars would be exported to the United States.

Sales of Celebrity have fallen 23.2 percent this year to 264,824 from 344,891 a year ago. Ciera sales dropped 25.6 percent, to 214,574 as of Oct. 30 from 288,459 a year ago, GM spokesman Harold Jackson said.

GM has announced planned closings of at least 16 other plants affecting 37,000 workers since last November. Three of the plants have already been closed. Several are scheduled to close in December.

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