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Toyota to spend $250M to help NUMMI workers

NUMMI auto plant in Fremont
March 3, 2010 6:33:00 PM PST
A new report out makes a final attempt to convince Toyota not to shut the NUMMI plant. Toyota says it will spend $250 million to assist employees at a factory in California that is slated to be closed.

Negotiations between NUMMI and the United Auto Workers resumed for a so-called retention payment; money designed to keep workers on the job until the plant closes on March 31.

And now it's known know much money is on the table.

Toyota announced it will provide $250 million to fund a payout to employees.

The $250 million represents about $53,000 to each NUMMI employee who stays until the plant closes. However, that amount could change depending on negotiations still underway and the figure could be tied to years of service.

That represents a big increase from December. ABC7 News reported then that the payout would range from $13,000 to $40,000.

"Oh, it'll help, but I'd rather have my job. It's something, and it'll do for a while," 24-year NUMMI employee Jeff Jenkins said.

Many union members are hoping to get some sort of medical coverage.

"You never know when you're going to get sick. This last week, I came down with pneumonia, and if it wasn't for the medical I have right now, I don't know how I would have paid for it," eight-year NUMMI employee Joe Solis said.

Toyota's payout announcement put a dent on a report issued Wednesday by a blue ribbon panel assembled by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

A 33-page white paper attempts to convince Toyota to keep NUMMI open, arguing that it will be a devastating blow to the state and local economy and to Toyota's reputation.

The report says closing NUMMI will leave 25,000 people unemployed at the plant and at suppliers.

Taxpayers will spend $2.3 billion to replace jobs, based on a federal estimate of what it costs to create a job and $90 million will be lost in tax revenue to local communities and to the state.

"The most immediate and direct stimulus we have is keeping NUMMI open and saving $2.3 billion and looking forward to a future that Toyota, its workers and the State of California can all be proud of," Commission Chairman Professor Harley Shaiken said.

Toyota's U.S. executives say it will give no more orders to NUMMI, sealing the plant's fate.

Hope remains that NUMMI can be spared.

"I think that it's worth a shot, given the number of jobs that are at stake, given the impact on the state economy and given the cost of creating new jobs. I think it's worth a shot," Nina Moore from the Fremont Chamber of Commerce said.

The pension plan covering NUMMI workers and retirees was rescued by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. That's the agency that steps in for abandoned or deficient plans.

The NUMMI plan is only 55 percent funded and is $131 million short to cover benefits.

Toyota took a swipe at General Motors, criticizing its former joint venture partner for not making a similar payout to NUMMI workers.

Toyota said it might have a reaction to the NUMMI report, but so far, nothing.


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