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W.Va. GM plant may be at risk

January 27, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Union fears of more job cuts at the General Motors Corp. Service Parts Operations plant in Martinsburg are "pure speculation," according to a GM spokeswoman.

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United Auto Workers Local 1590 told its members in a Jan. 11, 1999, newsletter that it had obtained information that GM is considering plans to move part of its Service Parts Operations from the Martinsburg plant to the Baltimore area.

GM is studying plans to realign its distribution network but the "SPO Launch Plan" outlined in the union newsletter "has not been through the corporate approval process," said GM spokeswoman Jill Witzenburg, from the division's headquarters in Grand Blanc, Mich.

The 2.2 million-square-foot Martinsburg plant has 870 workers who process auto parts from suppliers for distribution to plants around the nation. The 31-year-old facility also distributes parts to GM car and truck dealers in the Northeast and to about 800 customers in more than 100 countries.

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Plans have already been announced to shift some of the Martinsburg plant operations to new facilities in other parts of the country.

Some of GM's dealer parts distribution operations will be moved this fall to a new facility nearing completion in Charlotte, N.C. The ACDelco Parts Distribution Center currently in Martinsburg will shift to plants in California, Ohio and Tennessee.

The new ACDelco facilities are expected to start opening this summer and all three plants should be in operation by early next year, Witzenburg said.

GM also is considering moving some of its Asia-Pacific export business to West Coast distribution centers, but that shift would affect only a small part of the Martinsburg operation, said Witzenburg.

The loss of the ACDelco and some of the dealer parts distribution work likely will affect some of the 870 jobs at the Martinsburg plant but no specifics have been determined, Witzenburg said.

UAW Local 1590 leaders said the number of jobs affected by the moves has yet to be agreed upon by the union and GM, according to a UAW statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Union members will have an opportunity to transfer to the North Carolina and Ohio distribution centers, according to the UAW statement.

UAW officials reiterated the Baltimore move is "only an option" and said "nothing has been communicated to us regarding the reality of this happening."

Rumors have been floating around about possible changes at the Martinsburg plant for the past five or six months, said Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Robert T. Crawford.

GM is the largest private employer in Berkeley County and its "fine wages and benefit packages" are a major factor in the county's economy," Crawford said.

Crawford said the Development Authority would be available to help GM find someone to lease any extra space but said such plans would be premature before the company makes an official announcement.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," he said.

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