Concessions couldn’t save local GM plant-WEB ONLY

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The union president who represents workers at a General Motors Corp. plant in Indianapolis says he’s saddened that the plant might close sooner than had been expected as part of GM’s bankruptcy reorganization.

United Auto Workers Local 23 President James Kendall said GM told union officials this morning the stamping operations on White River Parkway may now close before December 2011.

The outlook for the plant had been murky for years. As part of an agreement reached in October 2007, GM and UAW had stipulated that the plant could be closed or sold “no sooner than December 2011.” The pact had fanned some hope among workers that the plant wouldn’t close at all.

Kendall said the plant’s 680 union workers had taken major contract concessions in hopes of keeping the plant going at least until 2011 and possibly much longer.

Shop committee chairman Bill Matthews said the changes to local work rules had been aimed specifically at increasing the plant’s competitiveness rating and possibly extending the plant’s life.

But GM said today the plant at 340 S. White River Parkway, just south of White River State Park downtown, would close or be sold by December 2011 or even sooner.

Kendall said GM didn’t tell the union when the closure might take place.

Despite the special effort, there was not much surprise at today’s announcement. Donny Jones, a member of the Local 23 shop committee, speculated that the plant’s proximity to downtown figured into GM’s decision.

“That’s a valuable piece of real estate,” he said. “It’s on the river. Right now, people are using it as a parking lot for the Colts games.”

But on a conference call this morning, a GM executive said logistics and transportation costs were the main factors in deciding which metal-stamping plants to keep open. Mansfield, Ohio, and Indianapolis are two locations on the closing list because the plants aren’t near assembly lines. One in Flint, Mich., meanwhile, sits right around the corner from a truck-assembly plant.

GM officials would not say when exactly the White River plant will close.

Matthews said he hopes to get word on a specific date before the Aug. 1 deadline for workers to accept a buyout offer.

“The more we know, the more it’s going to be beneficial to folks, as to what they want to do,” he said.
The White River plant employs about 680 hourly and 85 salaried employees, GM spokesman Fred Cox said. The plant is running with a full first shift and two-thirds of its second shift. Some second-shift employees are laid off temporarily, Cox said. The whole plant will shut down, as scheduled in the union contract, for two weeks on June 29.

General Motors said today it will permanently close nine more plants nationally and idle three others to trim production and labor costs under bankruptcy protection.

Assembly plants in Pontiac, Mich., and Wilmington, Del., will close this year, while plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Orion, Mich., will shut down production but remain on standby.

Powertrain plants in Livonia, Flint and Ypsilanti Township, Mich. will close next year, along with plants in Parma, Ohio, and Fredericksburg, Va.

The stamping plant in Mansfield, Ohio, also will close, and a stamping plant in Pontiac, Mich., will be idled but remain in a standby capacity.

GM says it will also close service and parts warehouses in Boston, Jacksonville, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio, by the end of this year.

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