Chrysler cuts in St. Louis worse than expected

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The job losses at DaimlerChrysler's suburban St. Louis operation will be worse than previously reported.

The automaker said it will eliminate more than 1,900 jobs at its two plants in Fenton -- more than 600 more than previously thought.

Spokeswoman Michelle Tinson said the additional 600 job cuts had been privately disclosed to unionized workers, but were not publicly reported in February when the company first announced its cutbacks here.

Tinson said the cuts are part of DaimlerChrysler's ongoing efforts to improve efficiency at its plants, and are not related to the 1,300 job cuts announced last month.

The company hopes to eliminate all of the jobs through retirement and voluntary severance packages, Tinson said.

Glen Woemmel, president of United Auto Workers Local 110, said he had not been notified of any new job cuts in Fenton.

"They have not officially told me anything," Woemmel said. He suspected the cuts were part of ongoing efforts to make the plants more efficient.

In February, DaimlerChrysler announced plans to eliminate 1,300 jobs at the South Assembly plant, where minivans are made. But at the time, the company didn't announce the additional cuts, including some at the North Assembly plant, where Dodge Ram pickups are manufactured.

Fenton Mayor Dennis Hancock said he wasn't aware of the additional 600 job cuts until reporters called and asked him about it.

"We're always disappointed when we hear about job loss," Hancock said. But improving efficiency at the plant will help it remain viable employer for in the future he said.

"The people who are left to work in the plant will still have jobs. It's much better than it could have been," Hancock said.

Tinson said DaimlerChrysler plans to offer hourly workers a $70,000 retirement incentive for those with at least 30 years of seniority.

The company will also offer $100,000 for workers with more than one year of seniority who accept voluntary termination, Tinson said. Retirees will keep health and other benefits consistent with their union contracts; other workers will get six months of medical benefits.

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