GM pushes growth message in light of announced job cuts

DETROIT: General Motors, which last week announced plans to cut 25,000 workers by 2008, is trying to calm worker uncertainty about what's ahead while getting the media to refocus on company growth plans.

DETROIT: General Motors, which last week announced plans to cut 25,000 workers by 2008, is trying to calm worker uncertainty about what's ahead while getting the media to refocus on company growth plans.

"We want to dampen speculation about this," said Gary Grates, VP GM North American communications. "We're going to keep talking about what we're doing to return to profitability in North America."

GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagner announced the staff reductions at the company's annual meeting June 7.

The expected cuts, which represent 13.8% of GM's North American workforce, will come from manufacturing, not staff jobs. Grates said GM has no plans to scale back its PR agencies, but that the company will be "getting better at knowing which agencies offer the best value and use for specific assignments," Grates said.

The automaker notified employees of the layoffs via a webcast of Wagner's speech at the annual meeting, newsletters in plants across North America, and a daily internally produced TV show. The goal was to let them hear or read Wagner's comments as soon as they were public, said Sue Mallino, staff director, GM global internal communications.

Said Grates: "what we are doing is trying to provide as much context as we can internally."

Wagner made the announcement at the annual meeting because "it was the right forum" to reach all GM's key audiences, Grates said.

Analysts have been speculating for months that GM needed to make dramatic cuts in production capacity to match its shrunken US market share.

But pressure will remain on communications to do more with fewer resources as the company seeks to cut overall expenditures.

"We've had an ongoing quest to get better at what we do on the communications end," Grates said.

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