Chrysler workers will have to 'tough it out'
Jerry Hall, 60, of Kirkland, who retired as a production worker at the Belvidere Chrysler plant in 2001 and was at work Thursday at American Legion Post 77 in Belvidere, said the layoff is a “scary thing.”
And it’s worse than previous layoffs, he said, because of Chrysler’s new owner.
“With this outfit, you don’t know whether to trust them or not,” Hall said.
But Jack Wolf, who with his daughter, Amy Wilcox, owns two Belvidere car dealerships that include selling Chrysler products, said he believes the layoffs are temporary.
“I think they will come back with some very good products,” Wolf said. “Their management team is second to none in the industry.”
Clyde Bumgarner, a construction worker from Genoa, who was eating breakfast at Grandma’s Restaurant in Belvidere, said residents of outlying areas look to the Chrysler plant to gauge their own well-being.
“Chrysler is a big producer, and we’re already in recession,” Bumgarner said.
He said the workers will just have to “tough it out. There is not much individuals can do.”
11:28 a.m.: Chrysler's temporary workers face first cuts
Chrysler might keep third-shift employees at the Belvidere assembly plant working a few more weeks than it initially reported.
The privately-owned automaker notified the state that it would let go 1,096 workers starting Jan. 31, but a “combination of factors” has the corporation pushing its layoff date to the end of February, company spokeswoman Michele Tinson said.
Those factors include the plant’s production needs, the company’s personnel assessments and negotiations with United Auto Workers, Tinson said.
Tinson wouldn’t put a firm date on the layoffs, but UAW Local 1268 President Tom Littlejohn told WREX-13 reporters they were expected Feb. 25.
The layoffs first will affect the temporary workers, who have no job-protection rights like their fellow UAW members, and employees who transferred from other Chrysler plants and lost their seniority.
There are about 600 or more temporary workers and 500 transfers who could be affected, Littlejohn said.
Although the details of any severance packages have not been fully agreed upon, special retirement and early-out packages might be offered in the near-term, Tinson said. About 400 people are eligible for retirements.
Jay Gillyard, who moved to Rockford from Detroit two years ago to take one of the temporary positions, was one of several Chrysler workers who hoped that enough of the veteran Chrysler workers would take buyouts to create some openings.
“We’ve been told that if they do call temporaries back it’ll be based on your work history,” Gillyard said. “I’ve been down here two years and haven’t missed a day.”
Gillyard had worked in the operations department for Northwest Airlines, which he left for Chrysler because Northwest was in bankruptcy.
“Looking back, I shouldn’t have left, but no one was sure what was going to happen (with Northwest),” he added.
Although he’s hopeful that he still can catch on permanently at Chrysler, the 31-year-old said he’s going to look into becoming a police officer.
Steven Franklin of Rockford also said he hasn’t missed a day since starting in June 2005. That’s remarkable because Franklin is 61, taking the job at Chrysler after 30 years as a header operator at Amerock Corp. Amerock’s parent company, Newell Rubbermaid, outsourced his position to Asia.
“The repetitive work was hard at first, but I got used to it,” Franklin said of his work in the decking department. “I have my (commercial driver’s license) so I can go drive a truck, but I really hope to get back in the plant. I like it there. I worked at Rockford Products and Amerock and this is the first job I go to clean and come home clean.”
10:50 a.m.: Could 'buying American' have saved Chrysler jobs?
Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson told the Register Star this morning that the third shift at the Belvidere assembly plant will be eliminated “toward the end of February.”
She said the move affects 1,096 workers or nearly one-third of the plant’s approximately 3,400 workers.
But when WREX-13’s Ryan Cummings talked to Tom Littlejohn of United Auto Workers 1268 this morning, Littlejohn gave a specific date, Feb. 25, for the 1,096 layoffs. He said 600 or more are temporary workers and 500 are transfers. He hasn’t heard numbers on buyouts, but 400 people are eligible to retire.
Littlejohn also made a push for supporting his trade.
“You may actually end up paying a little more for an American-made car, but it does keep your friends and your neighbors and relatives employed. ... And there’s a price to be paid if you don’t do that.”
6:40 a.m.: Chrysler to cut 1,100 workers, third shift in Belvidere
Chrysler LLC will lay off more than 1,000 workers in a planned cutback of workers at its northern Illinois plant, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The Detroit-based automaker announced Nov. 1 that it would lay off up to 12,000 workers and eliminate shifts in five North American plants to combat sagging sales.
The third shift at the Belvidere assembly plant will be eliminated "toward the end of February," Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said. The move affects 1,096 workers or nearly one-third of the plant’s approximately 3,400 workers.
The Belvidere plant, which has three shifts, makes the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot.
Chrysler said in November that it would cut 8,500 to 10,000 hourly jobs and 2,100 salaried jobs through this year, making up about 15 percent of its work force.
The cuts come on top of 13,000 Chrysler layoffs announced in February 2006.
Chrysler also will stop making four models, including the slow-selling PT Cruiser convertible and Dodge Magnum wagon.
Falling demand for vehicles in the U.S. market made the cuts necessary, Chrysler officials have said.
Rockford Register Star