Harley-Davidson seeks voluntary layoffs in Wisconsin

Production workers at Harley-Davidson Inc. in southeast Wisconsin have until the end of the week to decide whether to accept voluntary layoffs.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer is seeking to cut an unspecified number of jobs as part of new labor agreements that go into effect April 1, 2012.

Notices seeking voluntary layoffs went out to employees earlier this month.

“We are seeking voluntary layoffs from the work force, a process that ends this week,” Harley-Davidson spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim said. “We will then assess our needs, as involuntary layoffs may not even be necessary. We are advising employees of the process, not of any specific involuntary layoffs.”

The layoffs are tied to new contracts that allow Harley-Davidson to reduce its full-time hourly unionized work force in its Milwaukee-area facilities to as few as 700 employees, about 250 fewer than required under the existing contract.

Unions representing Harley-Davidson production workers in the Milwaukee area and Tomahawk ratified three new 7-year labor contracts in 2010. The new contracts were negotiated after Harley-Davidson considered shifting production outside Wisconsin.

The job reductions under the new contract are “unpleasant,” Roland Walter, president of United Steelworkers Local 2-209 told me in a recent interview. The union represents about 1,000 active hourly workers at Harley-Davidson facilities in the Milwaukee area, including the powertrain production facility in Menomonee Falls.

Harley-Davidson consolidated local powertrain production operations at the Menomonee Falls site, a move that led to the shutdown of the company’s Wauwatosa plant.

Source: Biz Journals