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Workers to buy, run GM bearing plant

General Motors employees will take over the corporation's New Departure-Hyatt Bearing plant in Clark, N.J., on Nov. 2 if a $55 million purchase agreement receives expected approval in a United Automobile Workers local vote later this week.

A worker-owned new corporation, Hyatt-Clark Industries Inc., already chartered, will operate the plant under an employee contract that calls for rollbacks of about 30 percent in wages and salaries in return for an incentive program that worker representatives say could make up the loss of pay.

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Initially, some 800 out of a work force of about 1,250 will be employed, but UAW officials expect ''1,200 and possibly 1,400'' will be working when the plant gets back into full operation.

GM announced last March that it intended to close the plant in July if a buyer could not be found. It blamed high labor costs and a dropoff in demands for the tapered bearings produced in Clark, the result of changes in requirements for new-model automobiles.

The closing announcement shocked an area in which there is a shortage of jobs paying auto-level wages. In 1976, in a similar situation, employees bought out an Okonite Inc. plant in Ramsey, N.J., saving jobs and shoring up the economy there. GM and the UAW called on attorney Alan V. Lowenstein, who worked out the Okonite purchase plan, to help with a deal to save the Clark plant.

The basis for both agreements are federal regulations that sanction employee stock option plans to help workers buy plants threatened by shutdowns. Using a stock option plan, the $55 million deal was worked out with GM's cooperation.

GM will have $10 million worth of nonvoting preferred stock and has contracted to purchase at least $300 million worth of bearings over the next three years, enough to allow the plant to operate at a profit, according to C. Douglas Howell, president of the new company. The plant also will seek to sell bearings to other American auto and tractor manufacturers.

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