Del. plant latest casualty of GM bankruptcy

June 1, 2009 8:50:25 PM PDT
General Motors workers at Wilmington, Delaware's Boxwood Road Assembly plant learned Monday their jobs could evaporate as early as next month.

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This news came after GM filed for bankruptcy.

General Motors will permanently close nine more plants and idle three others to trim production and labor costs.

Union leaders were inside the plant Monday for a series of meetings.

The Boxwood plant, in operation for 62 years, was already facing a closure by 2012. Now, the end will come by July, 2009, as GM faces massive downsizing under Chapter 11 reorganization.

Pontiac and Saturn cars were churned out by the plant, but since GM is shedding both brands, it's the end of the road for the Wilmington facility.

The 550 workers still at the plant are the latest victims of GM's collapse, the result of higher gas prices, slumping sales and failure to innovate.

The more than three million square foot facility is the last auto assembly plant on the east coast.

The Boxwood plant has been steadily losing workers, down from about 5,000 just two years ago. Only one shift has been operating there for the past year.

Delaware will certainlty feel the impact of this closure, especially since it's also losing 1,100 worker from a Chrysler plant in Newark.

"We really thought the workers had proven that they could lead General Motors to a better future," said Del. Governor Jack Markel. "So, we're really disappointed. Now the first task, second task, third task will be to help the workers stay on their feet."

Six of the nine plants GM will close are in the company's home state of Michigan, which has already been hard-hit by job cuts in the auto industry.

Its Pontiac, Mich., pickup truck plant will close in October.

Assembly plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Orion, Mich., will end production this fall but remain on "standby," meaning workers can be called back should the company need to increase production. One of those plants would be retooled to produce a subcompact vehicle that GM had originally planned to build in China.

Todd Horton, editor of the newsletter at the Spring Hill factory's United Auto Workers local, said the 2,500 employees got the news of the shutdown Monday morning. He said the Chevrolet Traverse crossover vehicle built there will be made in Lansing, Mich., instead.

Five GM powertrain plants, which make engines and transmissions, will close by December 2010. They are in Livonia, Flint and Ypsilanti Township, Mich.; Parma, Ohio; and Fredericksburg, Va.

Parts stamping plants in Indianapolis and Mansfield, Ohio, also will close starting next year. A stamping plant in Pontiac, Mich., will shut down production by December 2010 but remain in standby status.

In addition to the closures revealed Monday, a powertrain plant in Massena, N.Y., closed May 1, and GM previously announced the closure of a Grand Rapids, Mich., stamping plant, slated to shut down this month.

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

Officials will deploy teams of workers from the state departments of labor and health and social services to help workers with training and government assistance, said the governor's spokesman, Joe Rogalsky said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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