updated 6/9/2008 6:50:18 PM ET 2008-06-09T22:50:18

General Motors Corp. has started a new phase of hiring ahead of the departure of thousands of workers who accepted buyouts under a labor agreement last year, the company said Monday.

About 19,000 hourly workers are scheduled to leave the Detroit automaker this year under early retirement and buyout offers, prompting a significant readjustment of workers in several plants.

GM and the United Auto Workers agreed to the buyouts under the labor deal reached last year that allowed the company to replace departing workers with lower-paid new hires.

Laid-off workers and hourly employees currently assigned to jobs banks will have the first opportunity to fill positions opened up by the buyouts. In jobs banks, workers get most of their pay even though they have been laid off.

Company officials said employees who are laid off — or are expected to be — can apply for the openings based on seniority.

GM has not provided an estimate of how many outside workers it expects to hire.

GM spokesman Tony Sapienza said the automaker will still need to hire from outside the company even after it's filled jobs with existing employees.

Current UAW employees earn about $28 an hour, while entry-level wages begin at about $14-$15 an hour.

The new hires will undergo an orientation process, training on safety and quality control and the company's global manufacturing system. New workers will also shadow veterans to learn how to do the job.

Jamie Hresko, GM's vice president of quality, said the readjustments are similar to the steps GM took in 2007 when 34,000 employees left the company.

"I'm quite confident that we'll execute this like we did last time," Hresko said. Most training will take 2 to 3 weeks and will be ongoing during the next few months, he said.

In a separate move, GM said it has raised its cash incentives to as much as $4,000 on several large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks through late June.

Current GM owners of vehicles from the 1999 model year or newer can qualify for the incentives, which come on top of existing incentives.

For example, a buyer of a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban could qualify for up to $6,000 cash back, which includes $4,000 in "owner loyalty bonus cash" and $2,000 from a current cash incentive.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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