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Magna owned parts plant in upstate N.Y. faces layoffs as UAW talks go on

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New Process Gear, a transmission parts maker owned by Canadian-based Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG.A), plans to lay off about 1,650 workers at its suburban Syracuse plant, union officials say.

More than 300 other employees were laid off Jan. 2 as the United Auto Workers continued negotiating a new contract with Magna.

Before the layoffs, the plant employed 2,700 people.

Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst said Thursday she could confirm only that New Process Gear is ``experiencing temporary layoffs.'' She did not specify the number or length of the layoffs but said the plant is suffering from slack demand.

``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,'' Fuerst said.

A UAW handbill said there would be 96 layoffs this week, 1,123 next week and 437 the week of Jan. 28. The handbill declared: ``We are simply fighting for our survival.''

Local UAW officials were continuing contract talks Thursday and were unavailable for comment, a secretary said.

New Process Gear was formerly owned by DaimlerChrysler, which targeted it for closure during national auto contract talks in 2003. Instead, DaimlerChrysler sold a majority of the plant to Magna.

DaimlerChrysler got union acceptance of the deal by promising to pay workers then at New Process Gear through 2011.

Magna undertook to invest $75 million in the plant but workers say they see little evidence of that.

Magna has told the union it cannot afford to keep the factory open with its current cost structure and it plans to close the plant.

The union persuaded the company, headquartered north of Toronto, to keep negotiating.

``We have to get a good agreement for the plant,'' local president Doug Havens told the Syracuse Post-Standard of Syracuse, adding that the agreement must include more investment in the facility.

Magna, which has over 80,000 employees in 23 countries, earned $155 million in its latest reported quarter, up from $94 million a year earlier as July-September sales grew to $6.08 billion from $5.42 billion.

In reporting those results, co-CEO Don Walker observed that the auto industry ``remains difficult, particularly in North America,'' but Magna is positioning itself to exploit growth opportunities abroad.

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Magna owned parts plant in upstate N.Y. faces layoffs as UAW talks go on
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