As GM Fairfax workers get profit sharing checks, question arises about plant’s future

General Motors is passing out profit sharing checks at its Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan., even as GM’s finance chief is being asked about the plant’s future.

The roughly 2,000 hourly workers at Fairfax will collect the profit sharing with their Feb. 22 paychecks, GM announced Wednesday. The size of payment depends on hours worked during 2018. For some, the amount would reach $10,750.

Each worker’s profit sharing total accumulated through the year. A worker would not gain profit sharing for time spent on layoff.

Profit sharing is part of the contract the United Auto Workers negotiated after GM’s bankruptcy. The company said some GM workers have earned more than $80,500 in profit sharing payments since 2010.

Officials with UAW Local 31 did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

GM announced the profit sharing checks the same day CNBC’s auto and airline industry reporter Phil LeBeau called out Fairfax during an interview with GM’s chief financial officer Dhivya Suryadevara.

About 3 minutes into the interview, LeBeau noted GM’s cutbacks announced last fall. GM has offered its salaried workers a voluntary separation package and notified four plants that the vehicles and products they make would be discontinued this year, leaving them with nothing to produce.

“There are some on Wall Street who look at your guy’s capacity and say, ‘They still have a little bit too much capacity,’ whether you look at the Fairfax plant out in Kansas City, or you look at some of the other plants,” LeBeau said. “Can you guarantee analysts right now that you’ve rightsized the business, that we will not see further cuts?”

Suryadevara didn’t comment on Fairfax directly but said the company’s announcements last year were “aimed at rightsizing the capacity.” She acknowledged consumers’ shifting preferences away from sedans and toward crossover vehicles.

The Fairfax plant makes both in the Chevy Malibu and the Cadillac XT4. General Motors added the Cadillac crossover last year in a move the company said would preserve 500 jobs at Fairfax.

Employment at Fairfax had declined in 2017 when GM ended its third shift that had boosted employment to more than 3,000.

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Mark Davis writes about business for The Kansas City Star with attention to Sprint, investing, the economy and scams. He has been a winner and finalist in national competitions held by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.