NUMMI auto plant workers vote on severance deal

The union representing workers at a Fremont auto production plant slated to close next month said Wednesday that it had reached an agreement on a severance package worth $278 million.

The workers were voting Wednesday on whether to ratify the pact with New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., which runs the plant, and results were not expected until Thursday.

About 4,700 employees work at the facility, known as NUMMI. The severance package would amount to at least $21,175 per person. Workers would receive the payment in one lump sum in May.

The package, part of a deal reached by NUMMI management and Local 2244 of the United Auto Workers union, is being funded by Toyota Motor Corp. The Japanese automaker bumped up its original $250-million severance offer from earlier this month partly because of the controversy kicked up by news of the plant's closure, union officials said.

The factory, the last auto-making facility in the state, is a joint venture with General Motors Corp., which pulled out of the partnership in August because of its bankruptcy filing. The plant makes Corollas and Tacomas, but Sergio Santos, president of Local 2244, said in a statement that Toyota could have kept it open by adding Prius and future hybrid vehicle production.

When the factory closes its doors, Santos said, tens of thousands of workers in supporting industries, such as auto parts suppliers, could suffer. The chain reaction could result in depressed home values, strained public services and lower tax revenue, he said.

The severance offer includes a provision prohibiting UAW workers from discussing the closure or its effect after the agreement is ratified, he said.

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