GM CEO: No Need to Cut Benefits to Retirees

By Staff | January 8, 2009 | 8:25 AM EST
New York (AP) - General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said Thursday the Detroit automaker can survive long-term without cutting benefits to retired workers.
Wagoner made the remarks on NBC's Today Show, where he was joined by United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger. The two made the appearance from Detroit ahead of their renewed labor negotiations scheduled to begin next week.
The $13.4 billion federal loan package granted to GM last month requires that the UAW make concessions and also demands that GM submit a restructuring plan to the government by March 31.
Wagoner said he is confident both sides will reach agreement on changes needed to the company's labor contract.
"I'm confident that we'll come together and get the kind of changes that we need," Wagoner said.
Gettelfinger said the union will ensure that "what we do is done in the best interest of our members as well as our retirees."
Wagoner added that the much-cited $10-an-hour wage difference between GM autoworkers and workers at U.S. plants owned by foreign automakers is overstated, saying "it may be a little on the high side." He said productivity at the company's factories is among the highest in North America.
Wagoner also said that despite criticism he faced at the time, he never considered resigning during the bailout hearings that took place in November and December, even if it would have improved the bailout's chance of passing. He also reiterated that GM had set aside discussions with rival Chrysler LLC about a possible merger.
The White House approved $4 billion in loans for Chrysler last month, with loans for both automakers being funded by the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package passed last year.
Both companies are struggling for survival in an industry that is in the midst of its worst sales slump in decades. On Monday, GM said its U.S. auto sales in December fell 31 percent while Chrysler's sales plunged 53 percent.
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