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State: Wait and hope on Delphi

By M.J. Ellington
DAILY Staff Writer (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — State agencies that work most closely with industry and industrial employment in Alabama said Delphi Steering Systems has not announced any pending layoffs at its Limestone County plant.

Under federal law, large employers must give their workers 60 days notice before closing a facility or mass layoffs.

On Tuesday, both the agencies and Gov. Bob Riley's spokesman said the state hopes Delphi's Alabama automotive parts plants in Tuscaloosa, Anniston and Limestone County will survive the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy announced Saturday.

Delphi, the country's largest automotive parts supplier, was a division of General Motors until 1999, but it has suffered during the economic slowdown affecting U.S. auto makers as buyers have favored imports.

"The state will do whatever is appropriate and makes good business sense," Riley's spokesman Jeff Emerson said.

Although there were rumors in North Alabama about talks with a potential buyer for the plants, Emerson and other state officials said they haven't heard about that possibility.

"Right now, there is no indication that Delphi is going to close any of the Alabama plants," said Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs spokesman Jim Plott. ADECA works with companies that expect either large layoffs at a facility or plan to close.

Plott said Delphi has not contacted the agency about pending layoffs or to request help for workers who need retraining for other jobs.

The Alabama Development Agency recruits industry to the state and works with existing companies, including Delphi, as their needs change.

ADO Assistant Director Linda Swann said she hopes Delphi can work through the bankruptcy and continue to operate its Alabama plants.

Delphi supplies automotive parts for the Mercedes-Benz plant at Vance and is a major supplier for the Santa Fe sport utility vehicle, just beginning production at Hyundai's new Montgomery plant. Neither Hyundai nor Mercedes expects production disruptions.

"This is a little bit scary for everyone," said Swann. "I think it would be in (Delphi's) best interest to find a way to get through this and continue to operate. I hope so." Swann said Delphi made a large financial investment in recent years to modernize the Limestone plant.

Delphi Steering Systems spokesman Brad Jackson told THE DAILY earlier this year that the modernization makes Limestone one of the corporation's most technologically advanced facilities. About 2,600 people work at Delphi facilities in the state, and about 2,100 of those work at Limestone.

Delphi spokesman Lindsey Williams told the Associated Press on Monday that the corporation will meet in the next month with employee unions to discuss current employee wages and benefits, as well as pensions, health benefits and related benefits for retirees. Williams said it is still too early to know the impact of bankruptcy on individual employees.

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