Janesville55.4°

Lear layoff affects 100 workers

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 9, 2008
— A drop in production scheduled to start in April at the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville already is casting large ripples in the local economy.

About 100 employees at Lear Corp., which supplies GM with automotive interior and seating systems, learned this week that they will be laid off starting April 11.


“This is going to be very difficult for these people and their families,” said Mike Vaughn, United Auto Workers Local 95 shop chairman at Lear.


Vaughn said the employees are primarily second-shift employees who all have eight years of service at the facility.


“The length of their tenure makes it even more difficult,” Vaughn said.


Local 95 represents the 775 hourly workers at Lear in Janesville. The union soon will start negotiating a local contract with Lear to replace one that expires in March.


State officials were unaware Friday of the Lear layoff. But that’s not unusual, one spokesman said, because companies typically wait until the last minute to file a mass layoff notice that’s required 60 days prior to its start.


In the Lear case, that notice would arrive at the Department of Workforce Development on Monday.


Vaughn said the affected employees were scheduled to meet Friday night to discuss contractual rights, unemployment benefits and other issues associated with the layoff.


In addition to state unemployment benefits, it’s expected that the Lear employees will be eligible for Trade Readjustment Allowances, a federal program that helps workers affected by job loss or a cut in hours and wages due to foreign competition. The program is expected to offer extended unemployment benefits and tuition assistance.


Vaughn said the layoff is expected to be permanent.


“The only hope is really that the market turns around and things get better for GM,” he said. “That’s important for our people, their people and the community as a whole.”


Starting in April, GM will slow the speed of its Janesville assembly line from 52 jobs per hour to 44. The move is a reflection of the automaker’s demand forecasts for the Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes and GMC Yukon XLs and Yukons built here and at plants in Arlington, Texas, and Silao, Mexico. Neither the Arlington plant nor Silao plant is facing production slowdowns.


At GM, the slowdown is expected to affect between 300 and 400 of the plant’s 2,500 hourly employees, who are also represented by Local 95. Those employees might be laid off, but that decision has not been made. The local plant and its workers are awaiting an expected attrition program from the automaker.



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