General Motors Co.’s Fort Wayne Assembly Plant could need more workers by the end of next year and a production realignment announced late last month is expected to free up some assembly talent at plants it will be closing.
The shutdowns scheduled for next year will take place at two propulsion plants — Baltimore Operations in White Marsh, Md. and Warren Transmission Operations in Warren, Mich. — and at Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio; Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit, and Oshawa Assembly in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
GM has refocused capital and resources during the past four years to support growth of its crossovers, SUVs and trucks, and it said in a statement the plan is designed to optimize its product portfolio and transform product development to improve quality and speed to market.
“The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” Mary Barra, GM’s chair and CEO, said in the statement. “We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”
The changes will cut 14,000 hourly and salaried positions and will contribute to annual cost reductions of $4.5 billion and a lower capital expenditure annual run rate of close to $1.5 billion.
The Fort Wayne Assembly Plant employs about 4,300 making full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Its hourly employees are represented by United Auto Workers Local 2209.
“For competitive reasons, we do not disclose numbers of temporary employees,” said Stephanie Jentgen, a plant spokesperson.
The plant employs more than 720 temporary UAW workers, according to the Detroit Free Press, which quoted Local 2209 bargaining chair Rich LeTourneau as saying those jobs were at risk if permanent UAW workers at the plants scheduled for closing transfer to other GM plants.
The local plant could need more permanent full-time workers next year because some of the pickup bodies it builds are shipped to the Oshawa facility for painting, some parts installation and final assembly.
The facility near the intersection of U.S. 24 and Interstate 69 in Roanoke has two body shops. It has been using the older one to make the 2018 bodies for shipping to Oshawa, while ramping up production of the redesigned pickups with the newer one.
The arrangement allows GM to implement the redesign without losing any pickup production volume. GM invested $1.2 billion to prepare Fort Wayne Assembly to make the next-generation pickup.
Although Oshawa Assembly was among the plants scheduled for shutdown in last month’s production realignment announcement, it “does not change the original Oshawa Truck Shuttle plan for Fort Wayne Assembly,” Jentgen said. “This program was designed to be 18 months in length to provide trucks for our customers throughout the launch of the new pickups.”
As Fort Wayne Assembly increases the number of redesigned pickup bodies it is making, it will have more of them to paint and run through the kind of final assembly process the Oshawa plant now does on the 2018 models.
“GM adjusts production to meet demand for our Chevrolet and GMC trucks,” Jentgen said.
As for where the local plant could get additional employees to handle its increasing workload, “all employee movement is governed by the national agreement between the UAW and GM,” she said. “Out of respect to the bargaining process, we do not discuss negotiation strategy in the media.”
In addition to Fort Wayne, the company makes the redesigned pickups at plants in Flint, Mich. and Silao, Mexico. It began local production of the redesigned pickups in July.