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GM Plants Slowed by Walkouts Resume Operation, Wis. Strike Continues

November 4, 1996

DETROIT (AP) _ General Motors Corp. this week begins the long effort to make up light-truck production lost in last week’s strike-related plant shutdowns, which crippled U.S. assembly of its most profitable vehicles.

All four truck plants idled because of a United Auto Workers strike at GM’s Indianapolis metal-stamping plant will be back to normal operation by Thursday, the automaker said.

By Monday, nearly all of GM’s plants slowed or idled by last month’s Canadian Auto Workers strike were back at full operation. That strike shut down GM’s Canadian operations and forced the layoffs of more than 25,000 workers at dozens of U.S. and Mexican plants.

``It looks like everything’s going to be back to normal in the next couple of days,″ GM spokesman Tom Klipstine said.

Analysts have said it could be late winter or early spring before GM recoups most of the lost production.

But some significant production losses may never be made up. The Janesville, Wis., plant had been operating at capacity before the strike to keep up with a backlog of orders for its hot-selling sport utility vehicles: the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet-GMC Suburban.

``It’s going to be like an airplane seat that flies empty _ you can’t get it back,″ said analyst Maryann Keller of Furman Selz Inc. ``Once you take off, you can’t sell it again.″

Janesville was still idle Monday as negotiators continued trying to settle a strike by its UAW local. The walkout that began Oct. 1 has affected 4,809 workers.

GM spokesman Tom Beaman said the two sides met through the weekend, but he declined to say if progress was made.

The Indianapolis strike, also over local plant issues, was settled Saturday, hours after GM and the UAW reached tentative agreement in Detroit on a national contract covering GM’s 215,000 UAW workers.

Though the Indianapolis and Janesville strikes were over local issues, UAW officials said they were coordinated by union headquarters to put pressure on GM to settle the national disputes.

Top officers of the 123 UAW-GM locals across the country are to meet Wednesday in Chicago to hear details of the contract from union President Stephen Yokich and his bargaining team. A ratification vote by GM workers will be held during the following week.

After signing the UAW’s new Chrysler Corp. contract on Monday, Yokich acknowledged that some GM workers may not be completely pleased with the latest pact. ``You can’t satisfy everybody,″ he said.

He scoffed at published reports that the deal allows GM to cut as many as 30,000 or more jobs over the next three years, but he declined to comment on details of the contract before Wednesday’s meeting.

A key issue in the talks was the UAW’s demand that GM guarantee to maintain at least 95 percent of its union jobs in the next three years. Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler have such provisions in their contracts, with some exceptions for economic downturns and productivity gains.

GM, the least efficient of the Big Three automakers, sought broader exceptions to allow it to cut thousands of jobs and become more competitive. At issue were which plants and jobs were to be excluded from GM’s work force total, on which the 95 percent calculation was to be based.

A source familiar with the contract, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the deal provides for some job cuts through an early retirement program not significantly different from what was provided in the 1993 contract.

The union also will not fight the proposed sale of two Delphi Automotive Systems parts plants in Livonia and Flint, Mich., the source said.

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