Auto/Economy
6:51 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

GM to hire hundreds in Tennessee in next few years

In another sign of GM’s return to health, the company announced it will hire hundreds of new workers – this time, in Tennessee. 

At one time, the Spring Hill Assembly plant was scheduled to close.  

Now, GM and the UAW agreed the plant will be converted to an ultra-flexible plant that can make a wide variety of cars on relatively short notice. 

The first car it will build is the Chevy Equinox. GM hasn’t been able to keep up with the demand for that car.

Kim Carpenter is a spokeswoman for GM. 

"We started making the Equinox up in Canada at one plant," Carpenter says. "We added a second plant, we’ve done various things to increase overtime and add shifts, and we still can’t make enough of this hot-selling product. So we’re very excited that that will be the first vehicle that we’re able to use the Spring Hills facility to produce."

GM will eventually hire more than 1,800 new workers at the plant.  They’ll make the company’s entry-level, or "tier two" wage.  That wage is about half the wage paid to more senior workers.

Carpenter says there are some specific contract terms in place for Spring Hill, but says they can't be disclosed for competitive reasons.

Spring Hill will likely become GM's first plant to operate with all - or almost all - tier two workers. About 40 percent of the workers at GM's Orion Assembly plant are tier two. 

The existence of the two tiers has caused a considerable amount of resentment on some factory floors.  The situation has people doing the same work on the assembly line for very different wages.

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said recently the two tiers eventually must be merged into one, in part because of the divisiveness it creates among workers.

Chrysler has the largest number of tier two workers, at about 40 percent.  At GM, only about 5 percent of the workforce is tier two.