ACH lays off 260-70 through holidays

MARGARETTA TWP. The timing couldn't be worse. Just two weeks before Christmas, more t
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



The timing couldn't be worse.

Just two weeks before Christmas, more than a third of the staff at the local ACH plant learned they will be out of work through the holiday season.

Taking orders from Ford Motor Co., plant management on Thursday announced temporary layoffs for 260 to 270 employees.

The layoffs, linked to a nationwide decrease in production, are expected to take effect Monday and run through Jan. 5, United Auto Workers Local 1216 president Kevin Furr said.

"This is pretty much across the board," Furr said. "It's rough for people who don't have much time in -- we don't want to see anybody off work, especially if they don't want to be."

Many of the layoffs were inverse -- meaning those with more seniority could volunteer to take the time off so newer employees could stay. But those with the least seniority would be laid off first if there weren't enough volunteers.

Furr said it wasn't clear Thursday how many volunteered to take the time off, but the plant usually has a significant number of older workers who take that option during temporary cutbacks. So far, he said, there are no indefinite layoffs.

Though most of the workers are eligible for unemployment benefits through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, it could take up to three weeks for them to receive a check.

And some may be called back sooner, depending on the production schedule. Production lines for certain vehicles will remain running while others shut down.

"It's up in the air right now," Furr said. "We've been running week-to-week on volumes."

The plant has 666 hourly and 135 salaried workers.

ACH spokeswoman Della DiPietro said Ford Motor Co. is suspending production on a temporary basis, which affects all six of the ACH plants in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

General Motors Corp. will extend its holiday shutdown or make other production cuts at five factories as it deals with a continued U.S. auto sales slump.

The company announced changes at five other factories that could increase production of some models, all based on a U.S. auto market that has slumped to a 25-year low.

Sales of new cars and trucks were down more than 36 percent last month, according to figures released Wednesday by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers' Association.

Sales for the year were down more than 11 percent.

General Motors spokeswoman Susan Garontakos said it's unclear how many suppliers could be affected, and no other holiday layoffs or cuts have been announced in the past few days.

"We're still waiting to hear what's happening in Washington D.C.," she said. "We haven't been able to think about trimming people yet."

UAW Local 913 president Doug Preston could not be reached for comment on the possibility of holiday layoffs at any of the plants the union represents, which include KBI and Precision Automotive in Bellevue.

Local plant managers did not return calls for comment.

The announcement of more layoffs, though temporary, comes after several months of uncertainty for many area workers.

About 80 people lost their jobs when Tenneco Automotive in Milan closed its doors in October -- the second round of layoffs in three months. And company officials confirmed 34 employees at A. Schulman in Bellevue would be laid off from the plastic compounding plant, which makes pellets for molding machines used to produce automotive parts. At the end of November, Whirlpool in Clyde also laid off 250 workers.