Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Big 3's restructuring is a road map to saving jobs and making them green

The blather about "pre-packaged bankruptcy" for General Motors and possibly Ford and Chrysler continues to echo in media reports, but is fading fast as the automakers present their restructuring plans as a precondition to federal loans.

Bankruptcy, however it would be tied up with ribbons, would ensured the death -- immediate or within a few years -- of that considerable part of the auto industry owned by U.S. companies. The auto Big 3 is often called "Detroit," but nearly half of the companies' domestic jobs -- 112,000 -- aren't in Detroit or Michigan. They're in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, California and other states. Then there are all the other related jobs -- auto parts, sales, etc. -- that bankruptcy would also wipe out.

Take a look at the restructuring plans presented to Congress by GM, Ford and Chrysler. They all agree that even under the worst production scenario, each company can return to profitability over the next four years -- and pay back the $34 billion total in loans they're seeking.

They companies detail soon-to-be-realized savings from their historic 2007 labor contracts with the United Auto Workers, and other recent and future cost cutting that will, finally, let them produce all their vehicles -- including money-losing small ones -- at a profit, and compete with international companies whose plants are located in non-union states.

From the GM plan:

"General Motors’ total cost per hour for new hires can now be as low as $25, growing to $35 over time, significantly below the average fully-loaded labor cost for Toyota, which public sources indicate is between $45 and $50 per hour."

With all its restructuring, the Big 3 won't ever be as big as they used to be, but will still be the power train of U.S. industry, and, with the billions they plan to invest in advanced technology, make a big contribution to the necessary greening of American jobs.

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