Yesterday, the ax fell on 119 Union-represented designers at Chrysler. Excerpts from the Detroit News:

A UAW leader is promising to fight Chrysler LLC’s abrupt layoff of 119 union-represented designers Thursday — many of whom were escorted out of the Auburn Hills headquarters with less than one hour’s notice.

Jeff Hagler, president of United Auto Workers Local 412, who represents the affected workers, said Chrysler failed to follow protocol by not giving union leaders proper notice of the layoffs and by pink-slipping workers selectively, rather than by seniority. Hagler met Thursday with other union leaders at the local in Warren to determine the best approach to filing a grievance.

Management disagrees. Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said the automaker followed the procedures outlined in its contract with the union.

It’s still possible, she said, that those pink-slipped Thursday could be offered a choice between typical layoff benefits and the $100,000 voluntary separation packages the automaker has offered to other groups of workers. The buyout packages also come with six months of health coverage. Typically, laid-off workers receive nearly full pay for 48 weeks and then can spend up to two years in a job bank.

“We are working closely with the UAW and are having ongoing discussion about special programs,” Tinson said.

She said the layoffs are part of Chrysler’s Nov. 1 plan to eliminate 8,500 to 10,000 union jobs as it pares down its work force in response to lower production levels.

UAW officials, however, suspect the layoffs will allow more work to flow to non-union contract workers and possibly to the overseas engineering centers Chrysler announced it would open in four developing countries last week.

“Chrysler seems to be taking a very anti-union attitude,” Hagler said. “I sent a letter to senior management two weeks ago very sincerely saying we want to work with them to have the best engineering work force in the world. But they don’t seem interested in that.”

Hagler said if the cuts were truly related to declining sales, the union would not protest. These, he said, are an attempt to shift work to non-union contract workers. “They have 250 contractors working in the same department as those who were laid off,” he said.

Yes, I’m represented by the UAW, and I’m worried. Not about being laid off – I can find employment elsewhere (just maybe not in Michigan), but where the automotive industry is headed. Cuts are happening everywhere – Ford, GM, and Chrysler are offering buyouts to multiple employees. Cut too much, and valuable experience will be lost. I hate to say it, but I have serious doubts that the automotive companies, as a whole, will survive this hack & slash way of doing business.

Recovery is not just around the corner…