Chrysler will use taxpayer money to sweeten buyout deals for UAW workers who could lose their jobs at six plants likely to be closed if no buyer can be found.
The autoworkers are now being offered up to $115,000 plus a $25,000 vehicle voucher to leave Chrysler voluntarily.
The larger lump-sum payment, which was increased from $75,000 in earlier buyouts, is available to workers under 50 years old who have 10 or more years of seniority.
Workers 50 or older who qualify for some pension benefits won't receive that type of onetime payment. But those with 30 years, or whose age and years together exceed 85, will receive $50,000 plus the $25,000 voucher for a new Chrysler vehicle.
The new offer, which eligible workers have until May 26 to accept, provides a cushion for several thousand workers who could lose their jobs anyway. It also could take some pressure off the UAW's Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) retiree health care fund because younger workers who take the buyout may find health care through spouses or new jobs.
The buyouts are funded through Chrysler's taxpayer-backed "debtor-in-possession" financing.
By contrast, the company reserved funds prior to the bankruptcy filing to cover similar buyouts previously offered to UAW members. It is trying to pare its UAW workforce by 3,500 from about 26,000 when the first offer was made in January.
Plants covered by the latest offer are Sterling Heights assembly, Conner Avenue assembly, St. Louis North and South assembly, Kenosha (Wis.) engine and Twinsburg (Ohio) stamping. The offer doesn't apply to workers at plants in Newark, Del., which has closed, or Detroit Axle because some of those workers will be transferred to a new Marysville axle plant that is to open in 2010."This is simply Chrysler's way of reducing the number of employees about whom it will have to worry," said Richard Block, Michigan State University professor of industrial and labor relations.
Chrysler's creditors aren't likely to object because the plants could be more marketable with fewer workers, said Sheldon Stone, a managing director of Amherst Partners.