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New Strike Threatens Gm Output Dispute Could Halt Production At Some Plants Starting Today

General Motors Corp. was hit with its sixth strike of the year Wednesday, a walkout at a transmission and wheel factory that could force GM assembly plants to begin shutting down as early as today.

An estimated 2,800 employees represented by the United Auto Workers went on strike after midnight at the GM Powertrain Group plant in the Detroit suburb of Warren. The factory supplies virtually every GM assembly plant in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Negotiations resumed later in the day.

“We want an agreement as soon as possible,” GM spokeswoman Darla Park said.

The strike has the potential to be as devastating as one at two Dayton, Ohio, parts plants last year. That 17-day walkout forced the world’s No. 1 automaker to shut down its North American production, at a cost of $900 million.

Park declined to say how soon the Warren strike might affect GM’s assembly operations or those of other automakers the plant supplies.

But another GM source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Saturn car plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., is the only GM assembly installation that does not depend on parts from Warren. The first assembly plants could close today, the source said.

Depending on how many parts are stockpiled, GM’s North American assembly operations could be brought to a halt within two weeks, the source said.

About 14 GM car- and minivan-assembly plants use Warren transmissions. Other plants use Warren-made wheels and control arms, used in suspensions.

The automaker has been fighting with its unions - the UAW is by far the largest - over cutbacks it says are needed to make it more competitive.

Reg McGhee, spokesman for the UAW’s GM unit, said issues in dispute at Warren are similar to those at other plants that have gone on strike this year: staffing, outsourcing of work to independent suppliers, and health and safety.

GM averted a strike Wednesday at another parts plant, in Anderson, Ind. The Delphi Interior & Lighting Systems plant makes brake and turn-signal lights for virtually every GM car and truck. A strike there would have had a more immediate effect on GM’s assembly operations.

The 2,650 workers covered by the tentative three-year contract will vote on it Saturday.

Workers at GM’s Pontiac East assembly plant near Detroit returned to work Monday after ratifying a contract that ended a three-month strike.