- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler LLC is taking a drastic new step to right the corporate auto dealership by requiring all employees worldwide to take a two-week vacation this summer.

Chrysler, after losing $1.6 billion in 2007 and watching its U.S. sales slow down in the first two months of this year, informed employees of the plan in an e-mail yesterday.

“This year, in order to create better alignment and efficiency across organizational lines and boost productivity, Chrysler will use a corporate-wide vacation shutdown for the weeks of July 7 and July 14,” the e-mail said. “We ask that you approach this idea with an open mind and a team spirit. It’s going to take your cooperation and teamwork to achieve success.”

Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said the move isn’t a cost-saving measure, but an attempt to get more efficient.

“When you have projects going on, if everyone takes vacation at the same time, you don’t have that gap in knowledge on the team that you do when you’re covering for someone on vacation,” she said. “It does help to ensure that projects continue on time.”

But David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said cost savings were certainly a factor.

“They would not have done this if it had not been, over the longer term, to save costs,” Mr. Cole said.

North American plants have traditionally shut down for a week or two in the summer as equipment is updated for new vehicle models, Ms. Halprin said. But this will be the first time that all employees, hourly and salaried, will be affected.

Ms. Halprin said Chrysler employees have an average of four weeks of vacation time, and people will be encouraged to use their paid vacation days. Options will be available to salaried employees who have already used their annual allotment of days, including taking unpaid days off or attending training programs. Hourly employees go on temporary paid layoff during plant shutdowns. She also said some employees will continue to work during the shutdown, such as people who work with dealers.

“If we have a hot product and we need to continue operations, we will do so,” she said.

Chrysler has 71,578 employees worldwide, including 15,061 salaried workers and 56,517 hourly workers.

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