More than 10,000 mid-Michigan workers are eligible for cash incentives from General Motors to retire early. It's part of an agreement announced Wednesday between the world's largest automaker and the United Auto Workers.
Under the agreement, any GM workers represented by UAW would be eligible to receive a $35,000 lump sum to retire. Those workers would keep their benefits and pension, according to union leaders.
Workers willing to give up health benefits could get a larger payment -- $70,000 for those who have less than 10 years at GM, and $140,000 for those with 10 or more years with the company. Employees opting for the larger lump sum would keep their pension.
GM employees fast approaching 30 years with the company have another option. They could stop working now and receive a pre-retirement wage of roughly $2,500 a month until they formally retire.
Union leaders say it's a good deal -- but it's not known how many workers will take the automaker up on its offer.
"Been there long enough. Time to get out. Be nice to do it a little earlier," 27-year GM worker John Baxter said.
The early retirement incentives have Baxter thinking about leaving his job at GM early. He says a number of his fellow workers are thinking about leaving the shop floor before hitting the traditional 30-year mark.
"Their kids are grown-up. They'd love to get out, do something else. Start their own businesses, things like that," Baxter said.
The incentives are part of GM's plan to cut its workforce by 30,000 people over the next few years. Union officials estimate there are roughly 12,000 people who work for GM in the Lansing area. All are eligible for the incentives. But not everyone is planning on taking them.
"For me, no, I've only got 21 years in," worker Al Henderson said.
Henderson isn't thinking about retirement just yet. He works at GM's new Delta Township plant.
"It's a new plant. We have a lot of possibilities," Henderson said.
UAW Local 652 Shop Committee Chairman Art Baker says workers like Henderson should at least consider the options, given the state of the economy and uncertain future of GM's Jobs Bank program.
"It's an unprecedented opportunity inside General Motors," Baker said.
Baker sees the early retirements as a positive for GM, and for the workers.
"No downsides. If everybody took it, it leaves new jbos for the other folks that are without jobs," he said.
Henderson says attractive as it is, early retirement would be a life-changing decision. A decision it often takes time to make.
"For the whole, they have to have more information, I think," he said.
And workers do have some time to think it out -- the earliest they could retire is June 1st.
The agreement will also apply to 13,000 workers at GM parts supplier Delphi, if the deal is approved by a federal bankruptcy judge.
-- in Lansing Township, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.