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Upstate auto parts plant may lay off more than half its workers

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New Process Gear, a company owned by Canadian auto parts giant Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG.A), plans to lay off more than 1,650 workers at its suburban Syracuse, N.Y. plant over the next several weeks, according to union officials.

More than 300 other workers were laid off Jan. two as United Auto Workers officials continue negotiating a new contract with Magna, NPG's parent company. Before the layoffs, the plant employed about 2,700 people making transmission parts.

A UAW handbill distributed Wednesday said there would be 96 more layoffs this week, 1,123 next week and 437 the week of Jan. 28. The announcement said workers should contact their union representative or supervisor about the length of their layoff.

The handbill said in bold capital letters: ``WE ARE SIMPLY FIGHTING FOR OUR SURVIVAL!''

Neither UAW nor company officials would comment in detail on the negotiations or the layoffs.

``I will not comment on this issue because, (as you know), we are still going through negotiations, and it would be premature for me comment,'' said Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst.

But she said job cuts are needed because of slack demand from customers.

``We have to get a good agreement for the plant,'' said UAW Local 624 President Doug Havens. That agreement must include more investment in the facility, Havens said.

NPG was formerly owned by DaimlerChrysler, which targeted New Process Gear for closing during national auto contract talks in 2003. Instead, DaimlerChrysler sold a majority of the plant to Magna. DaimlerChrysler got the union's blessing for the deal by promising to pay workers then at New Process Gear through 2011.

Magna promised to invest US$75 million in the plant when it bought NPG, but workers said they see little evidence of that. Magna has told the union it cannot afford to keep NPG open with its current cost structure and it planned to close the plant. The union has persuaded the company to keep negotiating.

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Upstate auto parts plant may lay off more than half its workers
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