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GM to cut Wentzville production in early August

Monday, June 8, 2009 | 3:25 p.m. CDT; updated 9:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ST. LOUIS — General Motors Corp. said Monday it will indefinitely shut down one of two production shifts at its Wentzville, Mo., plant in August, citing a shrinking market for the full-sized vans produced there.

About 900 workers are facing layoffs, GM spokesman Chris Lee said. When — or if — they'll return is uncertain.

"It's all subject to market demand," Lee said. "At this time there's no scheduled return to work ... We can only hope."

Wentzville Mayor Paul Lambi was optimistic the shutdown would be temporary.

"I don't think it's going to be too long," Lambi said. "I think we're at a turning point (with the economy). I think this is just slack in the rope, but they have to do it. Of course, it will be very hard on the people affected by the layoffs."

A phone message left with United Auto Workers Local 2250 in Wentzville was not returned.

GM employs about 1,900 workers in Wentzville, where the GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express vans are manufactured.

"The market has shrunk dramatically over the last 18 months," Lee said. "We've been constantly monitoring our production and unfortunately as a result have had to make some difficult decisions."

For the week of July 27, the first shift will work but the second shift will not. Both shifts will work days during the week of Aug. 3. The following week, the plant will be down to one shift.

The sobering announcement came just a week after GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced plans to close or idle a dozen other plants nationwide. At that time, it appeared the plant in Wentzville, about 40 miles west of St. Louis, had been spared.

Also Monday, GM said it was giving up on its medium-duty truck business. The company will stop making the GMC Topkick and Chevrolet Kodiak commercial trucks in Flint, Mich., by July 31.

News of the shutdown in Wentzville was the latest blow to the once-thriving auto industry in the St. Louis region. Just four years ago, the region had 6,400 autoworker employed by the Big Three.

But Ford Motor Co. closed its Hazelwood plant in 2006. The company made Explorers in Hazelwood.

And earlier this year, Chrysler announced plans to close both of its plants in Fenton, cutting the remaining 1,200 jobs there. Chrysler made Dodge Ram pickups and minivans in Fenton.

The average autoworker in Missouri earns around $60,000 with overtime.

 


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