AOL to provide Net access to members of auto union

DETROIT: DaimlerChrysler and General Motors are turning to America Online in a new plan to improve employee communications. Early next year, the automakers will begin to offer employees unlimited access to AOL starting at a discounted monthly fee of dollars 3.

DETROIT: DaimlerChrysler and General Motors are turning to America Online in a new plan to improve employee communications. Early next year, the automakers will begin to offer employees unlimited access to AOL starting at a discounted monthly fee of dollars 3.

DETROIT: DaimlerChrysler and General Motors are turning to America Online in a new plan to improve employee communications. Early next year, the automakers will begin to offer employees unlimited access to AOL starting at a discounted monthly fee of dollars 3.

According to Tom Wickham, GM's labor media relations manager, autoworkers will be able to log on to new portals being created for employees of the two companies and receive e-mail announcements, check on their benefits and make adjustments to 401k plans.

The 300,000 North American workers at the two companies will also have the option of signing up for AOL's new TV-based service for dollars 5 a month, or taking a combination of DirecTV and AOL's TV options for dollars 31.95 a month.

GM already uses e-mail communications with professional staffers who have PCs at work, but 'this is opening it up to the hourly ranks,' said Wickham.

Tony Cervone, VP communications for the Chrysler Group, said the new deal represents 'one way of being able to improve direct communications to employees.'

The deal follows Ford Motor Co.'s decision in February to give PCs and discount Internet access to its employees.

After Ford's move, the United Auto Workers union began discussing the topic of Net access with GM and DaimlerChrysler, said Paul Krell, communications director for the union.

'All of the automakers have been making very good use of the Internet, so they quickly understood the benefit of having an Internet-savvy workforce,' Krell said.

In addition to speeding up employee communications, Wickham said the AOL deal will improve worker morale by providing more flexibility. For example, an employee who is home with a sick child or parent could use the new portal to check e-mail and stay in touch with work.

But the new system doesn't mean the companies expect work to be done 24 hours a day. Said Wickham: 'Does this mean we want you to take work home? No.'



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