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MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Employees, many others lose if Delphi plant closes

The problems confronting Delphi Corp. are monumental, especially for the more than 2,000 local employees who will be deeply affected should the plant go into bankruptcy, or even worse, close.

Perhaps the greatest danger is that many workers who have longevity at the plant across from Calhoun Community College could lose almost all of their pensions if this should happen.

An analyst has already suggested that Delphi file for bankruptcy to give it leverage in negotiations with the plant's mostly union employees.

As one of the area's largest employers, the loss of Delphi would be staggering to our economy. It would affect everyone, because the company could turn the under-funded pension plan over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which ensures that workers will receive a small portion of their pensions.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. is a government-funded agency that steps in when companies close or go into bankruptcy and will no longer live up to pension agreements.

The problem is, when it steps in, the money to support the pension plan comes from the taxpayers' pockets, and not that of the company.

Alabama will also be a large loser if Delphi closes. To help the company head off financial problems, Alabama agreed in 2002 to purchase Plant 22 and surrounding acreage as part of a $15 million incentive. In 2002, Delphi got $10.8 million and the remaining $4.25 million is due this year.

Closure would leave the state, and again the taxpayer, with a piece of property that may be difficult to resell or use.

Delphi Spokesman David Bodkin still paints a good picture for the Decatur plant's future. He said the company believes it has the finances to continue operating the plant.

For the sake of the workers, those about to retire and those who have retired, we hope Mr. Bodkin's prognosis comes true. Delphi has been a good business partner for North Alabama, pumping millions into the economy each year.

The leadership is taking steps to cut costs and the plant is one of 16 chosen for special attention through Delphi's Automotive Holdings Division to make them more financially secure.

With all this going on, hopefully, Delphi can sustain itself until steel prices drop and demand for products goes up.

We hope we can continue the successful partnership for many years.

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