General Motors Corp. is planning to slash another 10,000 salaried jobs this year, saying the cuts are unavoidable with a government restructuring deadline looming and industrywide sales in one of the worst downturns in history.
The Detroit-based automaker said Tuesday it will reduce its total number of white-collar workers by 14 percent to 63,000. About 3,400, or 12 percent, of GM’s 29,500 salaried U.S. jobs will be eliminated.
Most of the company’s remaining salaried employees will have their wages cut.
In its plan to Congress submitted late last year, GM said it would have to reduce both salaried and hourly positions so that the company could become viable long-term. The company plans to reduce its total U.S. work force from 96,537 people in 2008 to between 65,000 and 75,000 in 2012, but did not specify how many of the surviving jobs will be salaried or hourly.
GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, who was meeting with congressional leaders in Washington about global warming legislation, said Tuesday’s announcement is “indicative of the kind of things we need to do to get this viability plan in shape and respond to these tough market conditions.”
GM has dramatically downsized both its salaried and hourly work forces in recent years as the U.S. auto market has shrunk from an annual sales rate of around 16 million vehicles to 13.2 million last year.
Since 2000, GM’s salaried work force has shrunk by 33 percent from its 2000 high of 44,000 people. At the same time, the number of hourly workers has plunged by more than half — to about 63,700 people at the end of last year from 133,000 in 2000.
Most of the cuts announced Tuesday are expected to take place by May 1. GM said the cuts will vary by global regions depending on staffing levels and market conditions.
The company’s statement said there would be no buyout or early retirement packages as GM had offered in the past, but laid-off employees will get severance pay, benefit contributions and other assistance.
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson would not say exactly where the U.S. cuts would come from, but he said the automaker will continue to staff areas such as electric vehicle development that it expects to be important going forward.
“The goal is to put our people in the areas that are critical to our future success,” Wilkinson said.
GM also said it will cut the pay of most of its salaried U.S. workers effective May 1. The pay cuts will be reevaluated at the end of the year, GM said.
The wages of U.S. executive employees will be cut by 10 percent, while other salaried workers will see cuts of 3 percent to 7 percent, GM said.
GM faces a Feb. 17 deadline to present a plan to the government showing the wounded automaker can become viable. GM has received $9.4 billion in aid from the Treasury Department so far and expects to get $4 billion more, but the government can demand repayment March 31 if it determines the company can’t become viable.
The company is required to show the government it can achieve “positive net present value,” which means that the present value of a company’s expected net cash flows exceeds the initial investment in the company.
The loan terms also require bondholders to swap part of the company’s debt for equity. And, the UAW must make concessions that will reduce labor costs to the level of Japanese automakers’ plants in the U.S.
Wagoner said Tuesday that talks with bondholders and the United Auto Workers union are ongoing and “there’s good dialogue.” GM’s plan also will include shuttering additional factories, according to people familiar with the plans.
But the job cuts will ultimately be in vain, unless GM can find a way to sell more cars and start making money, said Douglas Bernstein, managing partner of law firm Plunkett Cooney’s Banking, Bankruptcy and Creditors’ Rights Practice Group.
“Unless you start driving revenue, all the cost cutting you’re going to do isn’t going to make a difference,” Bernstein said in a conference call with reporters.
Bernstein added that the key to spurring vehicle sales likely lies in freeing up credit for loans and calming frightened consumers. He pointed to Hyundai Motor Co.’s offer to cover a new vehicle’s depreciation for customers who want to return a car because they lost their job.
GM has yet to announce its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2008 financial results, but analysts expect the automaker’s losses to total in the billions of dollars for both periods.
GM reported a $2.5 billion loss in the third quarter alone and said it burned through $6.9 billion in cash during that period, adding to urgent warnings that it would run out of cash without government aid.
In afternoon trading, GM shares fell 7 cents to $2.76 as the broader markets plunged on concerns that the government’s new plan to shore up the financial sector may not be enough to loosen up credit and contain the deepening recession.
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