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Impact of GM Cuts on Area Operations Unclear

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – General Motors says it plans to eliminate 25,000 jobs in the US by 2008. The company's CEO says closing plants is part of the strategy to revive a floundering business in North America. The cuts would save about $2.5 billion annually. But just how those changes would affect GM jobs in Western New York is unclear.

About 2,400 United Auto Workers Union members are employed at the GM Powertrain Engine Plant in Tonawanda. Peter Masich is president of Local 774, which represents those workers. He will be attending meetings in Detroit Wednesday and expects to be briefed on GM's downsizing plans.

Masich says fortunately the local facility is doing well. He says that is due to its diversity. Workers produce four, six and eight cylinder engines for passenger vehicles and trucks at the Tonawanda site.

Masich says with gas prices so high, production of four cylinder engines could help boost local work.

"We continue to put out a good product. Our business here is doing well," Masich said. "Because we have the diversification of engine lines, we're doing well."

Right now, the union is working on layoffs for this summer at the Tonawanda plant. But Masich says they have established a voluntary layoff program. He says it helps protect younger workers and teaches older workers to live on less wages.

"Senior people who are asked to take a voluntary layoff will go into retirement," Masich said. "It gives them an opportunity to see how they can adjust to a lifestyle of fewer hours. And that protects the younger workers, because it gives them an opportunity to continue to work and gain more seniority."

Masich was elected just three weeks ago as the local's new president. He says he has his work cut out for him as he tries to preserve local UAW jobs at GM.