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September 7, 2017 The Hesston RecordSeptember 7, 2017 The Hesston Record

AGCO Announces Layoffs, Union President Explains

Posted 8/16/2017

By JACQUELYN NELSON

HESSTON RECORD STAFF

On Monday afternoon, AGCO announced a round of layoffs that would impact between 220 and 230 employees.

In a Record exclusive interview, USW Local 11228 President Christian Ward, who has monthly outlook meetings with AGCO leadership, and he saw the decline in demand.

“What happened was, a big number of products were taken out of the schedule compared to what was forecasted in January,” he said.

Treasurer Delgado said the layoffs will not occur all at once, but will cascade through the plant as production tapers off. 

“It starts at the beginning of the manufacturing process, so first would be lasers,” he said.

Ward added the Hesston plant is unique in that it receives spools of steel and can create completed machines from raw product.

“The lasers are first, then it goes down the process - cutting sheet to fabrication that cuts it more, to machine, paint, assembly,” he said.

Delgado added, “It’ll go in waves. If we keep productivity numbers up where they need to be, they’ll go week-by-week and day-by-day.  Right now we are just forewarned it’s coming,” he said.

Delgado said the layoffs are separate from the annual summer shutdown.

“Summer shutdown started for most of us in the beginning of July.  A handful began earlier than that, but summer shutdown was the month of July,” he said.

Delgado said there was “some talk” of extending layoffs, but he projected employees will return from summer shut down and layoffs related to the Monday announcement will begin at a later date.

As the Union leader, Ward said he was concerned about employees’ access to unemployment payments during the layoff and any confusion that can be caused by calling the layoffs “temporary”

“Kansas state statute says, after four weeks, a person is indefinitely laid off. That’s Kansas statute,” he said.

According to the contract between AGCO and Local 11228 as a collective bargaining unit, “you can be laid off out of line of seniority up to 50 days,” said Ward.

Those 50 days are cumulative in the calendar year - excluding 20 working days for a two-week shutdown in July and in December. 

Ward said he receives weekly reports on individual employees’ layoff status and total days.

Ward said this time of year can be riddled with anxiety for manufacturing employees.

“They see the writing on the wall. It’s almost as if they get a lot of anxiety.  Each time before any layoff, it’s like it’s the first time. You can speak with reason and logic, but the rumors get flowing fast and as a Union we try to stop that as much as we can,” he said.

The layoff announcement at AGCO comes on the heels of two other major layoffs at Excel Industries and GVL Poly. 

In 2017, as a community, Hesston manufacturing has shed approximately 545 jobs.