Delphi closing Limestone County plant

Delphi closing Limestone County plant

ATHENS -  Delphi Corp. will close a north Alabama auto parts factory that employs almost 1,400 people by March 2009, and cutbacks will begin almost immediately, a union leader said Monday.

Members of the UAW Local 2195 were informed of the company's plans to shutter the plant during a series of meetings. Many of the union's 1,180 members were taken by surprise by the announcement, said President Vaughn Goodwin.

"We were all aware that our pay probably was going to be cut, but it's like a slap in the face when we find they are going to close it," said Vaughn. "We really didn't see this coming."

Delphi, based in Troy, Mich., had no immediate comment. The company declared bankruptcy in October 2005 and said in court papers that it planned to close the Athens plant unless a buyer was found.

The factory employs about 200 salaried workers aside from union members. It manufactures steering components and axles.

Workers at the plant, which had 2,000 union workers as recently as a year ago, make hourly wages ranging from $14 to almost $28, Goodwin said. On Friday, Delphi announced it had reached a memorandum of understanding with UAW that would cut wages to a maximum of $18.50 an hour by Oct. 1.

The Alabama plant employed around 3,000 people as recently as the mid-1980s, Vaughn said. The workforce has dropped steadily since then, with the most recent cuts coming from buyouts that were intended to reduce labor costs for Delphi.

Vaughn said displaced workers could be offered positions at General Motors factories, but not Delphi plants.

"Nobody would want to work for Delphi anyway," he said.

Delphi has smaller factories in Cottondale and Gadsden. The company plans to sell the Cottondale plant, according to information from the union, but plans for the Gadsden plant were not immediately known.