Chrysler to Lay Off Thousands of Workers

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Chrysler's announcement that it will lay off another 12,000 workers, or 15 percent of workforce, just days after concluding a new four-year contract has angered some employees who say the United Auto Workers sold them the deal by saying it would protect jobs.

Some workers felt betrayed by the Thursday's announcement that Chrysler will cut 8,500 to 10,000 hourly jobs and 2,100 salaried jobs through 2008. The cuts come on top of 13,000 Chrysler layoffs that were announced in February.

In voting that ended Saturday, just 56 percent of Chrysler's U.S. production workers and 51 percent of skilled trades workers approved the new agreement after heavy lobbying by the UAW.

Union leaders even urged agreement on the controversial deal with a booklet titled Contract Protects UAW Jobs.

"I feel in a sense slightly hoodwinked by it all," said Brett Ward, who drives a forklift at a Chrysler plant outside Detroit.

"People were thinking their jobs were on the line and were — in effect — fooled into thinking they were protected when there were actually no guarantees in the contract," he said.

"I think we just got sold out by our leadership," Edward Mendrysa, 56, of Southgate told The Associated Press. For the past 13 years, Mendrysa has worked on the door line at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit. The plant, which makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander sport utility vehicles, is one of five that will have a shift eliminated under the plan.

Under the contract, the company can layoff workers because of reduced demand. Most will be eligible for a buyout package, including a cash payment.

Union spokeswoman Christine Moroski said no one should feel fooled: "UAW members are smart, they are aware of the problems in the industry and sales and their impact on jobs."

In the contract, Chrysler did commit to billions of dollars worth of investment but the company said it had to cut the jobs because of falling demand.

Jason Vines, Chrysler's vice president of communications, said the company has to dump models such as the Crossfire, because not enough people are buying them.

"Actually, the projections for the sales of that vehicle were unrealistically high. It's a limited market for a small, two-seat sports car," Vines said.

In addition to the Crossfire, the automaker said it will eliminate three other products through 2008: the Dodge Magnum wagon, the convertible version of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Chrysler Pacifica.

Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Tom LaSorda said the company has to adjust its cost base and streamline plant utilization.

"We have to move now to adjust the way our company looks and acts to reflect a smaller market," he said.

From NPR's Frank Langfitt with additional reporting from The Associated Press



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