GM Offers Buyouts to Work Force

DETROIT -- General Motors, eager to lower wages and reduce the losses it saw in 2007, said Tuesday it is offering a new round of buyouts to all 74,000 of its U.S. hourly workers who are represented by the United Auto Workers.

Workers will be given the details of the buyouts over the next several weeks. Most of those who accept are expected to leave by July 1, the company said. The UAW represents 98 percent of the company's U.S. hourly workers, with smaller unions representing the rest, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

GM won't say how many workers it will shed, but under its new contract with the UAW, it will be able to replace up to 16,000 workers doing nonassembly jobs with new employees who will be paid half the old wage of $28 per hour.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said he expects fewer than 20,000 workers to accept. Gettelfinger said the union understood that more buyouts would be coming when it agreed to the contract.

"We didn't go into the contract blind. We're proud of our membership. There are certain things we cannot control," he said during an interview Tuesday morning with a local radio station.

GM had been offering buyouts to about 5,200 UAW workers at service and parts operations and some closed plants since December, but those workers are now eligible for the new, sweetened offer, which raises the incentive payments for retirement-eligible workers by $10,000 for production workers and $27,500 for skilled workers.