GM workers laid off as sales fall

Sagging pickup truck and sport utility vehicle sales have forced General Motors to shut down one shift each at four North American factories and lay off about 3,500 workers.

The world's largest automaker by sales said the cuts, to take effect starting this summer, were brought on by weak demand due to high gasoline prices and an economic downturn.

The cuts will affect pickup factories in Pontiac and Flint, Michigan, and Oshawa, Ontario, as well as the full-size SUV plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. The layoffs represent just over 4 per cent of GM's hourly manufacturing work force of about 80,000 in North America.

The company said the cuts mean it will make about 88,000 fewer pickups and 50,000 fewer large SUVs this calendar year.

GM said the exact number of layoffs will be worked out with its unions. Workers will get unemployment benefits and supplemental pay that total 80 per cent of their normal 40-hour gross pay, said GM spokesman Dan Flores.

"With rising fuel prices, a softening economy and a downward trend on current and future market demand for full-size trucks, a significant adjustment was needed," GM North America President Troy Clarke said in a statement. (AP)