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GM's Plant in Van Nuys May Be Saved

April 25, 1986|JAMES BATES and HARRY BERNSTEIN | Times Staff Writers

Negotiators for General Motors and the United Auto Workers have apparently reached a tentative agreement on a plan that could indefinitely prolong the life of GM's plant in Van Nuys.

Company and union officials were still working on details of the plan late Thursday, according to one high-ranking union official. The official, who asked not to be named, said that a final agreement will probably not be reached until early today and that the results will be announced at a 1 p.m. press conference at the Greater Los Angeles Press Club.

The plant, which employs nearly 5,000 workers, has been facing the possibility of a shutdown because the models it produces--Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds--are less popular than other GM cars and the company has been considering consolidating work done at the Van Nuys plant into GM facilities elsewhere in the nation.

Indefinite Layoff

Earlier this month, GM said it would lay off 2,190 workers in Van Nuys in June as part of an indefinite layoff of 4,700 workers at four plants nationwide.

The negotiations on the Van Nuys plant are being conducted primarily by plant manager Ernest D. Schaefer and Bruce Lee, the UAW Western regional director. Before the apparent breakthrough, a rally had been scheduled for Saturday, in which UAW workers were planning to march in front of GM dealerships on Van Nuys Boulevard.

UAW Local 645 President Pete Beltran has received wide support in the community for a threatened boycott of GM if the company closes the Van Nuys facility.

Beltran and his allies have said the boycott threat is the most effective way of pressuring GM to keep the plant open by giving it another GM model to produce. However, other union officials, led by Lee and Ray Ruis, chairman of the local's bargaining committee, have been pressing for what what they call an "updated" union contract.

The agreement to be announced today reportedly includes a general promise by GM to keep the Van Nuys plant open. In addition, the union and company are said to be in agreement on a new procedure that would allow teams of workers to have a greater voice in production and management of the operation.

A union official involved in the negotiations strongly denied one report saying that the plan would involve productivity concessions by the union. Another union official said he was told that a promise of state money for retraining workers might be involved.

The agreement also could include a significant reduction in the number of job categories, so that workers could move more easily from one post to another.

A somewhat similar contract was negotiated at the Fremont, Calif., plant operated jointly by GM and Toyota. The agreement there was formulated by Lee and union officials in Fremont, who generally report substantial success during nearly two years under the cooperative system.

Beltran and his allies say, however, that the "updated" contract would mean a substantial reduction in the number of workers needed in Van Nuys, and they are expected to oppose ratification of any such agreement reached between GM and the union's negotiating committee.

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