More laid off at cutting plant

November 27, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

About 45 employees of GST AutoLeather's Williamsport-area cutting plant were laid off on Wednesday, eight days after the company president announced the plant would close, the union president said.

The employees on Wednesday were given letters officially informing them they had been laid off, said Bobby Colvin, president of Local 658T of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

The company, formerly known as Garden State Tanning, supplies automotive leather to many companies, including Toyota, Chrysler, Ford and Honda.

Mark Lecher, company president and chief operating officer, said last week the company would close its Williamsport II cutting plant in early 2004. Lecher said GST AutoLeather also will be closing its Reading, Pa., plant and moving some of those operations to the Williamsport I facility, which handles tanning and finishing operations.


Lecher could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

An assistant said the company had no comment.

Eight people were laid off earlier this month, Colvin said.

A second GST cutting plant will open by the end of the year in Mexico, where labor is cheaper and several customers are located, Lecher has said.

Consolidation at the Reading plant likely will result in more jobs at the Williamsport I facility at 15717 Clear Spring Road, though not enough to accommodate all 215 of the employees currently employed at the Governor Lane Boulevard cutting plant or the 100 employed at the Reading plant, Lecher has said.

Some of the employees laid off Wednesday may have enough seniority to transfer to the tanning plant on Clear Spring Road and bump an employee with less seniority, Colvin said.

Colvin predicted there will be many employees "bumping" other employees in the next few months.

Colvin said another, larger round of layoffs is expected in late December. More than 100 people may be layed off in that round, he said.

Company officials have told him the cutting plant will be closed by late January, he said.

Colvin said GST received a grant that will allow it to provide the laid off workers with 26 weeks of unemployment and two years worth of reimbursements for those seeking full-time schooling/training. Those unemployment benefits are in addition to the unemployment benefits the workers can apply for through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

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