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Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Auto workers fear for future

The White House is considering using a portion of the bank bail-out funds to rescue the country's struggling automakers after a $14bn deal failed to get Senate support.

Here, auto workers hit by the bleak economic climate share their experiences.

MARK SUTER, 50, ELECTRICIAN, BROOKSTON, INDIANA

Mark Suter
Mark lost his Chrysler job in March
I'm disgusted that Congress is willing to sign over hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street banks but won't give the auto industry a bridging loan.

I was employed at Chrysler's massive transmission [gearbox] plant in Kokomo, Indiana. The factory used to build an average of 5,000 transmissions in a single day and employed over 6,000. We used to feel our futures were secure. I routinely worked seven days per week and sometimes 12-hours per day.

It all came to a screeching halt for me when I was laid off in early March of this year. Since then I've been collecting state unemployment benefits and sub-pay cheques from Chrysler.

I don't see how the auto industry can survive.

People just aren't buying many cars. At a union meeting yesterday, we were told total auto sales in the USA were projected to be just 10 million - down from 17 million in 2007.

State governments like Indiana have apparently encouraged foreign car companies to set up in the US, offering infrastructure and tax breaks to help them locate here.

I'm seeking employment elsewhere and have a job interview next week for a position in a hospital. It's a shame the only jobs going seem to be with the US government.

At least I have a skilled trade. Many of the non-skilled workers will have a very difficult time finding a job with comparative pay in central Indiana. The future of the state is looking bleak.

RANDY SCHNELL, 33, FACTORY WORKER, SANDUSKY, OHIO

Randy Schnell
Randy says the government should step in
I work as a fork lift driver in a General Motors plant. Auto workers' wages have been blown out of proportion for quite some time. People read of the high hourly rates that we are meant to be making - but these sums include our benefits.

It's not our fault the economy is in a bad shape. Like almost any job, we do all we can to ensure our future.

Our plant is now permanently laying off good workers who deserve the wage they are currently making. Some people I know won't be back in next Monday.

All this will trickle down to the wider economy. Some people will have to file for bankruptcy. I'm separated and paying child maintenance. If I lose my job, my ex-wife will probably have to go bankrupt and then my children will probably have to go to a different school.

The government should step in to help the industry. The people who say otherwise, well, they're just not in our shoes. Some are jealous of our wages. Others believe the bad press auto workers seem to get.

The future's not looking good. From Mexico to China management will keep moving plants to places where workers are paid less.

DAVID BOTTS, 44, COMPUTER TECHNICIAN, MORGANTOWN, KENTUCKY

The politicians in Washington say that the Big Three are inefficient - and they probably are. But Congress doesn't understand how truly interdependent the auto industry in America is.

If General Motors, Ford or Chrysler go down it could hit the whole industry.

I work for a Japanese-owned company that supplies two of the largest Japanese factories. It also supplies American car makers.

It's distasteful, but I think the government should help the auto industry
Losing our GM business would not be fatal. But if GM goes bankrupt it could put our suppliers out of business.

The last 10 years have seen a consolidation of suppliers as competition and razor-thin margins caused companies to go out of business or merge with others.

The people saying that the government shouldn't help the auto makers are the same bunch that said allowing Lehman Brothers to fail wouldn't affect the financial markets. Remember how well that worked out.

It's distasteful, but I think the government should help the auto industry. Personally, I could move into a different sector. But I would lose all my benefits after working for the company for 20 years. And besides, there is no sector in Kentucky that hasn't been hit by the downturn.

The future of the industry doesn't look great. It doesn't matter how efficient your company is at the moment - the problem is they simply can't sell enough cars.



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