GM Ohio union says will fight plant closure

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - The union representing autoworkers at the General Motors Corp truck plant in Moraine, Ohio, said on Tuesday it will fight plans to close the assembly plant, one of four on the chopping block.

Gaylen Turner, president of IUE-CWA Local 798 representing some 2,300 current workers at the Moraine plant, said GM’s decision to shutter the plant, announced earlier on Tuesday, was not a surprise but would be opposed by the union.

“We anticipate having additional meetings, sitting down and talking about contractual issues, meeting with the international union to see where we go from here and what can be done,” Turner said.

“Never never means never. Until they tell me there is no other chance, I’m going to continue to fight to do what we can do to keep the place open. I’m going to fight as long as I can,” he added.

He said the Detroit automaker’s decision to close the Moraine plant is sad but not unanticipated, since it was already being downsized and lacked product plans after 2010.

“I don’t know if you’re ever ready for it. People understood that it was something that could happen. But you always hold out hope,” Turner said.

GM said on Tuesday it was closing four truck plants and could sell its Hummer brand to cut its output of slow-selling trucks and SUVs in response to higher gasoline prices that the automaker now sees as a permanent threat to its business.

The Moraine plant makes GM’s Envoy, Trailblazer and Saab models. As of Monday, more than 300 workers had accepted “special attrition packages,” Turner said.

Tony Curington, a union representative for displaced workers in the area, said the plant closing would only add to an already stressed economy.

“Some people were hoping they’d keep that facility open. But now this has sealed their fate,” Curington said. “You are going to have a lot of dislocated workers who will be depending on a lot of social services. There is nowhere for them to turn. The manufacturing industry has dried up around here. It is really going to devastate the area.”

GM said the latest steps would cut $1 billion from its structural costs by 2010, but analysts questioned whether the steps would improve the automaker’s turnaround prospects in the face of a U.S. market now seen slumping well into 2009.

GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said higher gasoline prices have caused consumers to swap out of higher-margin trucks and SUVs faster than GM had expected.

“U.S. economic and market conditions have become significantly more difficult,” he said.

GM shares, which have lost almost 60 percent since peaking in October last year, were up 29 cents or 1.7 percent at $17.73 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Carey Gillam and Andrea Hopkins, editing by Gerald E. McCormick