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GM Idles Missouri Plant

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Corp. planned to shut down another plant Thursday due to a strike at key parts supplier American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. even as labor talks were scheduled to resume between American Axle and the United Auto Workers.

GM said it would run only two hours per shift at its Wentzville, Mo., plant until parts run out, which was expected to happen Thursday afternoon. The plant employs nearly 2,000 people and makes the GMC Savanna and Chevrolet Express vans.

About 3,600 UAW workers at five American Axle plants in Michigan and New York walked off their jobs Feb. 26 after contract talks broke down over wages and other issues. The resulting parts shortage has forced GM and some parts suppliers to shut down plants in the U.S. and Canada, affecting thousands of workers.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said talks would resume at noon Thursday for the first time since the strike began. A message seeking comment was left with the UAW.

The Detroit-based parts supplier makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars for GM's flagship pickup trucks, large sport utility vehicles and vans. GM, which spun off American Axle in 1994, makes up nearly 80 percent of the company's business.

The strike has forced the automaker to temporarily shut down six plants in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, an Indiana plant that makes Hummers under contract to GM was closed, and GM is due to close part of its Toledo, Ohio, transmission plant, its Saginaw metal casting plant and an engine plant in Moraine, Ohio, on Monday.

GM says 19,079 manufacturing workers have been affected by the shutdowns, or nearly a quarter of its North American manufacturing work force.

The strike also could cause plant shutdowns at Chrysler LLC, which says it can last another week before its Newark, Del., assembly plant could be temporarily closed. American Axle makes axles for Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs made in Newark, as well as two versions of the Dodge Ram pickup made in Saltillo, Mexico, spokeswoman Michele Tinson said.

The UAW has said American Axle is demanding wage reductions of up to $14 an hour as well as elimination of future retiree and pension benefits. The union also accused the company of unfair labor practices, which the company has denied, and it said American Axle failed to provide the union with enough information to evaluate its proposals.

American Axle, however, says the union should give the company the same wage concessions it has agreed to at other suppliers and automakers. American Axle says its manufacturing workers can make up to $73.48 per hour in wages and benefits, three times the rate at its U.S. competitors. The company wants to cut that to $20 to $30 an hour, which would be similar to the agreements reached between the UAW and the in-house axle-making operations at Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler as well as at other suppliers such as Dana Corp. and Delphi Corp.
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