The Job-losing Spell is Cast in Delaware

by : Glady Reign

The ambience is bleak so are their faces. They knew it is coming but there seems to be no way out. To Chrysler's workers in Delaware, the austerity never felt that bad. Well, not until the job-losing spell is cast. The announcement about plant closures and job cuts crushes them into smithereens.

Chrysler's workers are anxious about the outcomes of the slump in demand and sales of the automaker's vehicles. However, it still struck them hard when the announcement was conveyed to them. At Newark, Delaware, there is no better proof of the challenges facing DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and its workers than the rows of Dodge Durango sport utility vans built down the road at the automaker's assembly plant.

The Dodge Durango's sales dropped 39 percent last year compared to that of 2005. With the increase of gasoline prices and the shift of the market to small fuel-efficient cars, Chrysler had little to offer customers. This is primarily due to the fact that 70 percent of its sales depend on fuel-thirsty trucks.

Earlier, the automaker has declined to go into details when asked about the thing they call as Project X. However, last Wednesday, the much-awaited revelation happened as scheduled. Chrysler has finally announced its widely expected restructuring plan that necessitates slashing of at least 11,000 hourly and salaried workers and the closure of at least two factories in the United States and this is including the Newark Assembly. The plan dubbed as Project X is formulated to transform Chrysler into a leaner and more competitive company that will bloom by working more closely with its German parent Mercedes-Benz in producing vehicles.

The situation elicits various reactions from the workers. Harry McHenry, an 83-year-old retiree from Newark Assembly, said, "I wouldn't want to be in their shoes today or working in manufacturing. The big SUVs are too expensive to fill up." He could wish to assemble but to no avail - for he is stranded in the doomed plant.

Lee Cross, a forklift driver who has 27 years seniority said, "The public gets to make the decision whether we stay open by what they buy." Cross is 45 years old and he turned down the Marine Corps at age 18 and went to work at the Newark Assembly. "If the plant closes," he said, "it's going to have a big impact on this town."

Kenneth Malin, also a co-owner of Malin's Market and Deli, said, "Chrysler's just like any other business. If their costs exceed revenue, they have to do something." He added, "Obviously, people have moved away from big SUVs." The restructure plan could save the automaker but one thing is sure about the whole deal: it will force a painful reality on the lives of the workers and other businesses linked to it - from Detroit, Windsor to Newark. Malin predicted that business could drop five percent to seven percent if the factory is shattered.

The Newark Assembly has been on a one-week-on, one-week-off rotation since July last year. This gives workers more time to worry about their future. "People have been on edge for weeks, waiting and waiting," said Dan Benson, a 41-year-old mother of one with 16 years at Newark. "There's been a lot of crying, a lot of people worried about losing their homes and worried about what they would do next."

DaimlerChrysler is not alone in this plight. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are included in the chaotic scenario in the United States. In addition, analysts are predicting that industry retrenches will intensify in the next few years. Delphi Corp., a bankrupt auto supplier, intends to close 21 of its 29 plants in the United States. Ford plans to close 16 plants by 2012 and GM will shut down 12 factories by the end of 2008.