Plant closure might just be start of bad news for auto workers - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Plant closure might just be start of bad news for auto workers


JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Even with GM's Janesville Assembly Plant scheduled to shut down at the end of this month, things could get much worse for auto workers there depending on what Congress decides to do with the big three automakers.

Workers and retirees of the Janesville plant are expecting benefits well into the future. Current workers will be receiving pay and benefits for two years. Retirees collect pensions and health insurance. That could all change if GM were to declare bankruptcy.

Sales figures for November suggest that could be a very real possibility. GM's sales dropped by 41 percent last month. Other automakers also reported dismal sales.

This week, the big three are in Washington trying to convince Congress to give them a $25 billion loan.

Even if GM staves off bankruptcy, workers' benefits could still be at risk. The United Auto Workers says it is willing to renegotiate contracts to keep the company afloat.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is urging auto workers not to put off retraining opportunities. "We know that no matter what the age of the individual if they will work with us and participate in training, they are going to do better," explains Secretary Roberta Gassman.

Currently, Janesville is plagued with rumors about what the future might hold. Some even suggest the plant will not close in three weeks. The Rock County Job Center says these rumors add to uncertainy and put people even more on edge.

"Reoccuring themes and rumors that seem to be out there only keep it fresh in someone's mind and very disconcerting to many, many people," described Bob Borremans, executive director of the job center.

One rumor is that retirees could lose their pensions if GM goes under. Officials say that will not happen, because pensions are protected by the federal government. However, everything else, including health insurance, could be at risk.

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