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125 workers at Indianapolis GM plant take buyout offer

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More than 125 people at General Motors Corp.’s metal-stamping plant in Indianapolis have signed up for buyouts or early-retirement packages that are worth as much as $115,000 in cash per worker, a union official said this morning.

July 24 was the deadline for accepting the offer.

The buyout is the second that GM has offered this year and the fourth since 2006. Companywide, GM has not yet announced how many of the 16,000 hourly workers who were eligible for the buyouts accepted the offer. Those who signed up have until Friday to change their minds.

The fact that the stamping plant on White River Parkway is slated to close by December 2011 – and quite possibly sooner – may have prompted some of the 125 people to take the buyout this time. Just 44 people accepted GM’s first offer of the year in March. That deal was not as rich, and came months before the company announced plant closings.

GM has received billions in federal money and exited bankruptcy this month. The company recently said that it would like to cut at least 13,000 hourly employees.

Most of those who accept this buyout will punch out for the last time on Friday.

The departure of more than 125 local employees might open slots for 42 people who’ve been laid off, said Bill Matthews, bargaining chairman for United Auto Workers Local 23. “Within the month or two, hopefully, all these people will be returned to work,” he said.

The UAW-represented head count at the plant just west of downtown will fall to 555. GM has another 85 salaried workers at the plant.

In the latest offer, GM will pay cash and give $25,000 vehicle vouchers to those who agree to retire or quit. The car vouchers, which are taxable, may be transferred to one person.

The company also is encouraging those who are close to retirement to retire as soon as possible.

About one-third of GM’s Indiana work force is retirement-eligible but still working. Those who agree to leave now will get $20,000 in cash and the car voucher, plus their pension and other benefits. Retiring skilled-trades people will receive $45,000.

GM is extending retirement benefits to older workers and those who are just shy of the 30-year mark with the company. Those who are at least 50 years old and have at least 10 years of service may retire on Aug. 1.

Those who have 28 or 29 years of service may enter a “pre-retirement” program in which they promise to retire when they hit 30 years “without additional incentives.” They’ll get gross monthly wages of $2,850 to $2,900 until their normal benefits kick in.

The highest cash payments are going to workers who simply agree to quit GM, thereby saving the company from paying extended health and life insurance benefits.

GM will pay $45,000 to those with less than 10 years of service; $80,000 to those with more than 10 years and $115,000 to those with 20 years or more. All will receive the $25,000 car voucher.

Some of those who accepted GM’s first offer in March could have received more cash if they’d waited. GM will pay the difference.

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