GM executive: ‘We’ve thought about the individual’ amid 4,000+ layoffs this week

This week, the carmaker will terminate nearly 15,000 jobs by year-end as it shifts its business model to focus on electric and self-driving vehicles.

General Motors says it’s working to “treat our employees with the highest respect” as it slashes thousands of jobs.

On Monday, the company began handing out pink slips to salaried staffers. Nearly 4,300 employees will receive termination notices this week.

The layoffs are part of a cost-cutting plan that General Motors announced in November. By the end of 2019, the carmaker said its ending production at five plants in North America and cutting 14,700 jobs.

Business Today reported:

Two people briefed on the cuts said GM is cutting hundreds of jobs at its information technology centres in Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan and more than 1,000 jobs at its Warren, Michigan Tech Center. GM is filing new required mass layoff notices with state agencies and disclosed the cuts to lawmakers.

Detroit Free Press reported:

Some employees inside GM’s Detroit headquarters received an email Monday morning from CFO Dhivya Suryadevara telling them “restructuring activities” were beginning and saying employees will be informed by their team leaders when the cuts are complete.

“As you hear about employees that are impacted, please be mindful and respect their feelings. People will respond differently, so always take your cue from them,” she wrote.

“Bear in mind that GM has adapted lessons from our past and we’ve thought about the individual throughout this transition. We want to preserve dignity to all employees by living our values and behaviors. We recognize that every individual will respond differently, and we will respect and acknowledge those differences.”

This week’s layoffs are roughly half the job cuts that GM plans to make by the end of February.

The Detroit News reported:

GM largely will complete an ongoing effort to cut some 8,000 salaried and contract jobs this month, the source said. As part of its restructuring, the automaker also is cutting its global executive workforce by 25 percent, but it’s unclear where that effort stands.

“We are not confirming timing,” GM said in a statement to The News. “Our employees are our priority, and we will communicate with them first.”

Prior to moving to involuntary separations, GM offered buyouts to 18,000 employees on Halloween last year. In an internal memo obtained by The News after the deadline to accept buyouts, CEO Mary Barra said roughly 2,250 employees requested to take the voluntary separation offer. Reductions to GM’s contract workforce were largely completed last year with some 1,500 workers let go.

Though the carmaker said its employees are its “priority,” the voluntary buyouts the company offered to staff members weren’t enough to stop this week’s terminations.

NBC News reported:

Prior to announcing the cuts, GM had hoped to reduce its workforce through voluntary buyouts offered to 17,700 employees, but the acceptance rate initially was low. Two separate sources told NBC News that the number of workers who have negotiated separation agreements has escalated in recent weeks, though GM still needs to hand out pink slips to about 4,000 employees next week to meet its target.

The cutbacks will, overall, save the company about $3 billion by the end of this year, despite the cost of the buyouts, and a total of $6 billion by the end of 2020.

The layoffs are rolling out amid protests by employees and their unions. Despite receiving a cease-and-desist letter from General Motors’ legal team, Canadian union Unifor released the following ad during Super Bowl LIII:

After the ad aired, GM issued the following statement to Fast Company:

This is the implementation of the salaried actions announced late last year. These actions are necessary to secure the future of the company, including preserving thousands of jobs in the U.S. and globally. We are taking action now while the overall economy and job market are strong, increasing the ability of impacted employees to continue to advance in their careers, should they choose to do so.

Our focus now is on working with each individual employee on providing severance packages and transition support through job placement services.

General Motors’ message of focusing on the individual employee carried through to an internal memo the company sent to its workforce on Monday.

Detroit Free Press reported:

One of the memos obtained by the Free Press read: “Today we continue our restructuring activities, including employee separations, across North American locations. Please be assured that every effort has been made to treat our employees with the highest respect. We have thought through personal and professional needs and will provide our employees choices for how the process will work best for them.”

It goes on to say that, “We all manage stress and emotion differently, and safety is a key element of our culture. As you know from your GM safety training if you see or hear something that may impact employee safety, please speak up.”

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