General Motors Co
GM has offered $60,000 to skilled trades workers who retire or leave the automaker's payroll, spokesman Chris Lee said. The automaker currently has a couple thousand more skilled trade workers than it needs, Lee said.
The offer covers workers who had been hired at 14 U.S. plants and runs until March. That could allow GM, the top U.S. automaker, to book the charge for related payouts in its first quarter results.
The potential cuts to factory payrolls come as the U.S. auto industry emerges from a near-collapse in 2009 that sent both GM and Chrysler into U.S.-government funded bankruptcies.
GM, Chrysler and Ford Motor Co
The new auto jobs include factory hires at half the wage that established workers represented by the United Auto Workers currently make. Hiring also is targeted at white-collar workers in specialized fields such as battery engineering.
GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson said last week the automaker wanted to ease restrictions on executive pay as well because it was in danger of losing skilled staff as the economy recovers.
The latest round of targeted buyout and early retirement offers from GM were made to UAW-represented workers in 14 U.S. plants, including the Orion, Michigan, assembly plant.
That plant will build the new Chevrolet Sonic under a cost-cutting agreement negotiated by the UAW and intended to allow GM to build the small car in the United States rather than import it from a lower-cost market like Mexico.
GM plans to employ just over 1,300 workers to build the new subcompact car for its Chevrolet brand and the Buick Verano compact at the now-shuttered Orion Township assembly plant when production begins in August.
The UAW has agreed to allow GM to run the Orion plant with 40 percent of its workers at a second-tier wage of about $14 per hour. That is about half of the nearly $29 per hour that veteran UAW-represented GM workers on the assembly line now make.
The lower wage represents pay of about $30,000 per year, down from $58,000 for assembly line workers under the previous UAW contract.
Other GM plants covered by the most recent buyout offer include two assembly plants that are closed but could be brought back to operation. Those plants are in Janesville, Wisconsin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.
UAW-represented workers in skilled trades, such as electricians, make higher wages than workers on the assembly line because of their special training.
The union and the automaker head back into contract talks in 2011 aimed at securing a new agreement on wages and benefits to replace an expiring four-year deal.
Under terms of GM's restructuring, the UAW has agreed not to strike until 2015.
UAW President Bob King has said the union expects to win agreement for some form of profit sharing that would reward workers for GM's emerging turnaround.
GM had about 51,000 U.S. hourly workers at the start of 2010, down from 62,000 a year earlier.
(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)