CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Feb. 9, 2000)—Increased efficiency caused by schedule changes will mean a layoff of 70 production workers through mid-February at Continental General Tire Inc.´s Charlotte tire plant.
Staffing at the facility is being revised to provide for "greater equipment and employee flexibility," according to the company. Schedule changes and product changeovers also will improve customer fill rates from the plant, which is the largest among the company´s passenger replacement tire factories.
The facility is refocusing on producing what Conti General´s customers want rather than sheer volume, according to Michael Polovick, Conti General human resources director.
"The realignment of our manufacturing strategy brought on by our expanding customer base and the success of our new work schedule has resulted in the need for fewer employees," Plant Manager Jim Dolwick said.
The company does not know yet which workers will be laid off, but an optional layoff provision will be offered to allow an employee preferring time off to replace one who wants to remain employed.
Some senior employees have chosen to do this, though the number is uncertain, Mr. Polovick said.
Laid-off workers also will receive supplemental unemployment benefits of up to 80 percent of weekly income and extended free health care.
The benefits would continue for between two and 12 months, depending on who and how many employees elect to be laid off, Mr. Dolwick said. Those laid-off workers would be the first to be brought back as needed.
"We appreciate the efforts of all our employees," he said. "We hope that with the continued growth of our business and our normal turnover these hard-working employees can rejoin us in the near future."
Employment will be reduced to about 1,200 workers, Mr. Polovick said.
The work force was reduced to 1,300 last fall following the year-long Steelworkers strike in Charlotte, when 1,450 union members walked out following the lapse of their contract.
With the new contract, which lasts into 2006, USWA Local 850 accepted a four-shift, 12-hour work schedule.
Shifting to the more efficient schedule allowed Conti General to reduce employment to about 1,000 Steelworkers and 300 former replacement workers, who staffed the plant during the strike.
A Local 850 spokesman said as of Feb. 2 no union members had volunteered for layoff. He said he expects the bulk of the 70 will come from the pool of former replacements because of their lack of seniority.
But Mr. Polovick said the company doesn´t consider any of its employees replacements despite what the union believes.
"We´re doing this for business reasons," he said.
The company´s initial priority with employees following the return of the union work force in September was to improve on the high turnover rates at the plant.
The new schedule, which includes a multiple "days on-days off" plan and no mandatory overtime, has led to "dramatically improved turnover," Mr. Dolwick said.
Now, Conti General is taking the steps to adjust its staffing, he said.
"We now see ourselves better able to service our replacement tire business at the levels demanded by our increasing customer base," said Chris Dickson, vice president of the company´s Passenger/Light Truck Replacement tire unit, in a prepared statement.
"These changes along with efficiency improvements gained in our recent contract are sure to give us a leadership position in customer service, both now and in the years ahead," he said.