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Published: Friday, 5/26/2006

GM buyout draws 900 so far in Toledo, Defiance

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

For Greg DeGroff, "it was a little plus."

He is among 900 General Motors Corp. workers in Toledo and Defiance who have accepted buyout offers so far from the nation's No. 1 car maker.

The total includes 617 employees, or 18 percent of the workforce, at GM's Toledo Powertrain plant, according to a newsletter published by the plant and United Auto Workers Local 14. The factory has 3,500 workers making 6,000 transmissions a day.

An additional 275 of 2,100 workers have signed up at GM's Powertrain plant in Defiance, according to people familiar with the situation.

Nationwide, more than 20,000 GM employees have accepted the offers, according to people familiar with the situation.

Company and union officials couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Workers have until June 23 to decide whether to accept the buyouts, which are being made as part of a company attempt to improve its financial position by trimming up to 30,000 of 113,000 hourly workers.

The automaker is offering payments of $35,000 to $140,000 to encourage retirement-eligible employees to go and younger workers to sever ties. The further from retirement eligibility the employee is, the larger the payment.

Mr. DeGroff, an assembler at the Toledo plant with 38 years' service, had decided to leave before the company announced the offer in March. Under GM's contract with the union, he was eligible to retire because he has more than 30 years' service.

The $35,000 payment was an unexpected bonus, said the 56-year-old who retired May 1 to a lake home in Manitou Beach, Mich.

Like Mr. DeGroff, 75 percent of those accepting the offer at the Toledo plant were retirement-eligible, the Local 14 newsletter said. Eleven percent have left, 18 percent are scheduled to go June 1, and 43 percent are to depart July 1, the newsletter said. The remainder will be gone by Jan. 1.

Participation in Toledo, as of May 23, includes 536 production workers and 81 skilled trades workers.

GM has begun hiring temporary workers at some plants to ease the transition to a smaller workforce, according to the Detroit Free Press, but it is unclear whether that has happened in Toledo or Defiance.

The temps will make $18 to $19 an hour, compared with about $26 an hour for regular workers, and will get no benefits. Vacancies are expected to be filled eventually by employees who will transfer from plants elsewhere.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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