The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 11, 2013

FreightCar warns of layoffs

DANVILLE — Local employees of FreightCar America received some unwelcome news on Saturday.

“We just got WARN Act letters,” said Bob Buford, a 17-year FreightCar employee and member of United Auto Workers 2419, Saturday.

According to Buford, the letter states the rail car assembly plant at 2313 Cannon St., “anticipates changes and when finalized, could be permanent.”

The changes are expected to take effect sometime between April 23 and April 29. Various dates are given in the WARN Act letter depending on where a worker is positioned on the production line.

“Everybody knew it was coming,” said Monty Ollis, who has worked at the facility nearly 16 years and is a UAW 2419 member. “The management got the WARN letter on Friday and told the rest of us to expect ours in the mail on Saturday.”

The letter was issued in accordance with the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires employers to provide 60 days advance notice of pending plant closures or mass layoffs. The law applies to businesses with 75 or more employees, excluding part-time employees.

FreightCar America employs about 250 people in Danville. The company and UAW 2419 agreed in October to a one-year extension of the union’s contract.

On Monday, Deanna Johnson, human resources director at the FreightCar location in Danville, said she had “no comment” when asked about the WARN Act letters and deferred questions to senior vice president of human resources Tom McCarthy at FreightCar America’s corporate headquarters in Chicago.

McCarthy said, “We’ve notified all employees of the scheduled layoff.”

McCarthy acknowledged FreightCar America has had situations in the past in which a downturn in new rail car orders slowed production and prompted short-term layoffs. But this time different factors are at play.

“The coal market is down, primarily due to the economy and competition from natural gas, and it’s impacting the (production) schedule at the Danville site.

“We’re working hard to get orders for the plant, but right now we don’t have orders past mid- to late April,” he said. “We’re actively pursuing new orders.”

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