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UPDATE: Stamping plant suitor gets time to negotiate

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There’s more time for Illinois-based JD Norman Industries to hammer out a deal to buy a General Motors stamping plant in Indianapolis, potentially saving hundreds of local jobs.

The leader of United Auto Workers Local 23, which represents about 650 workers at the Indianapolis facility, on Wednesday morning asked the would-be buyer to negotiate terms with GM and the International UAW, barely beating a deadline the automaker set to make progress on the sale. GM plans to close the plant next year.

JD Norman has said it wants to buy the plant—if the unionized workers agree to take wage cuts. The union was reluctant to open contract negotiations, but Local 23 Chairman Greg Clark OK'd the talks at a morning meeting, asking that the parties work out a proposal and bring it back to plant workers for a vote.

“This kind of changes everything,” said Maurice “Mo” Davison, the Indianapolis-based director of UAW Region 3. “It’s going to give the people in the plant an option, other than just the plant closing.”

Clark did not immediately return a phone call left for him at the Local 23 union hall. JD Norman founder Justin Norman also did not return a phone call.

Wednesday's meeting took place at U.S. Rep. Andre Carson's offices on Fall Creek Parkway at the request of the congressman, said spokesman Justin Ohlemiller.

Davison said the first negotiating session has yet to be scheduled, and there is no new timetable set for reaching an agreement.

But he hopes GM, which is disposing of old assets using a company called Motors Liquidation Inc., will sweeten the deal with incentives for the workers—things like retirement payouts for older workers or lump-sum severance agreements for younger employees, who could use the money to switch careers.

“We think they’ve got the best leverage right now,” Davison said, before GM shells out the money needed to close down the plant.

The workers at the GM stamping plant have a four-year labor contract negotiated in 2007. It contains a two-tiered system in which new employees earn about $15 an hour compared with the prevailing $29-an-hour wage for more experienced workers.

JD Norman, based in Addison, Ill., performs metal stamping at locations in the United States and Mexico for the aerospace and defense, appliance, automotive, building technologies, electrical and energy, and medical industries.

The company has acquired seven stamping plants since 2005—the last one being HSM Industries in Mexico in November.

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