Freightliner lays off 130 employees at Portland plant

| 12/22/2005

For 130 employees at a Freightliner plant in Portland, OR, layoffs will make this a much less happy holiday.

On Wednesday, Dec. 21 – three days before Christmas – Freightliner LLC announced that it would be laying off 130 employees on its Western Star Class 8 truck line at the Swan Island plant. Employees affected by the layoffs would work their last shift at the end of the day on Wednesday.

Andy Johnson, manager of internal communications for Freightliner, told Land Line that the move will not lower the number of trucks produced at the plant.

“We announced yesterday that we will adjust our manufacturing workforce in response to a change in product mix at the Portland truck plant,” Johnson said. “Production volume remains constant, but we will be increasing the mix of lower-labor Freightliner-branded vehicles, while simultaneously decreasing the number of Western Star-branded units.”

The layoffs account for about 7 percent of the plant's manufacturing workforce, according to The Oregonian .

“This is considered a permanent layoff,” Johnson said. “However, the affected employees do retain seniority rights for a period of time. We have an average of one person leave the plant a day, so a lot of these guys could be back … by the end of June.”

Although announcing the layoffs days before Christmas, Johnson said the company is compensating the laid-off employees to help them make ends meet until they find new work.

“There's never a good time to lay people off, but this actually gives some people some time,” he said. “They get full holiday pay through the (end of the) year, and they also get benefits through January.”

Although there has been some speculation about ramped-up production for “pre-buy” – the time when fleet owners and owner-operators buy 2006 model-year trucks to avoid the higher emission standards and costs – Johnson said it has nothing to do with the layoffs.

“That's not a factor at all,” he said. “Everything is the same volume. We're just changing to a less labor-intensive product.”

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer