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Toledo Transmission to add up to 150 jobs in 1st quarter

Hiring to be on top of 500 workers for planned upgrades

The-Alexis-Road-polant-also-know-as-GM-Powertrain

The Alexis Road plant, also known as GM Powertrain, is experiencing increased demand for 6-speed transmissions for GM front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

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For the first time in a decade, Toledo Transmission is hiring workers new to General Motors Co.

The Detroit automaker is hiring at the Alexis Road plant -- also known as Powertrain -- because of an increase in volume in its transmissions. The hiring in the first three months of the new year is on top of nearly 500 jobs to be added next year from previously announced upgrades the company is making in the plant. The new hires will make almost $16 an hour.

GM has laid off thousands of workers in recent years, which created a large group of employees with call-back rights waiting to go back to work.

"That pool is now exhausted," said Joe Farinella, plant personnel director at Toledo Transmission. "We have placed everybody in our layoff pool across General Motors."

The plant, which produces 6-speed transmissions for rear-wheel and front-wheel-drive GM products, hired its first three new employees this month. That trickle is expected to increase in the coming weeks, with the company planning to add as many as 150 production employees by the end of March.

Much of the hiring, Mr. Farinella said, will be through referrals by current GM employees.

Ray Wood, president of United Auto Workers Local 14, said more workers are needed because of an increase in the number of the transmissions being made. Toledo-built transmissions go into the Lordstown, Ohio-built Chevrolet Cruze, the full-size Chevrolet Malibu, and the GMC Yukon, among other models.

"It's good news for us and good news for the community," Mr. Wood said.

Those jobs are in addition to the hundreds of jobs to be created in 2012 from investments that will add an 8-speed-transmission line and enhance the line for the front-wheel-drive transmission.

Mr. Wood said company officials have told the union that the 8-speed transmission project, into which GM plans to invest $260 million, should create about 400 jobs. GM will pump an additional $83 million into the plant to upgrade the 6-speed line

"We don't know how many jobs are associated with that, but anticipate another 50 to 75," Mr. Wood said.

New hires will start out at $15.78 an hour under the recently approved agreement between the UAW and GM. That's slightly more than half of what veteran workers make.

The Toledo plant has about 1,800 employees, of whom a little over 1,600 are hourly. By this time next year, total employment could be near 2,500, Mr. Wood said.

The plant went idle Friday for the regular holiday shutdown. Production is to resume Jan. 3.

The local situation is somewhat at odds with what is happening at other GM plants. Bloomberg News reported Friday that factories that build full-size trucks in Roanoke, Ind., Flint, Mich., and Arlington, Texas, would close for a combined total of 21 weeks next year as the automaker updates the factories for the next generation of trucks.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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