GM, UAW Announce Expansion at Tennessee Auto Plant

General Motors (NYSE:GM) and the United Auto Workers announced plans on Monday to expand production at the former Saturn plant in Tennessee, creating 1,900 new jobs by 2014.

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GM will begin making the popular Chevrolet Equinox at its Spring Hill plant in the second half of 2012 with a $61 million investment.

UAW President Bob King plans to highlight the return of assembly work to the plant for the first time since 2009 as he continues attempts to organize non-union Japanese, German, and South Korean auto plants located mainly in the U.S. South.

Broad outlines of such a plan were announced in September when GM and the UAW reached a four-year labor agreement. Instead of raises for veteran auto workers, GM agreed to expand work at several plants and create jobs.

GM plans to follow up its expansion with the addition of an as yet unnamed midsize vehicle for the 2015 model year. GM will hire some 1,196 workers to begin work in for that product in 2013. GM said it will invest $183 million at Spring Hill for that product.

Of the 1,881 jobs that will be created at the Spring Hill plant, 1,684 will be UAW-represented workers. The roughly 400 GM workers presently on layoff will be given first chance to fill the Spring Hill jobs as well as new posts opening at its Wentzville, Missouri plant.

The new hires will be paid nearly $16 per hour, whereas veteran assembly workers would earn roughly $29 per hour. Second-tier pay is to rise to about $19 per hour over the course of the four-year contract.

Before being “idled” in 2009 when GM shut 14 plants as it went through bankruptcy, the Spring Hill plant was the center of production for the Saturn brand and employed more than 8,000 workers. The plan lost its assembly line production in 2009, but remained open mainly as an engine plant, employing about 1,000 workers.

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Equinox bodies are currently being produced at a GM plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, and assembled at its plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Both plants are running three shifts a day to keep up with demand for the crossover. Through October, GM had sold 163,000 Equinox models in the U.S. this year, up 45% from 2010.