Harley-Davidson is implementing plans outlined in the seven-year contract workers at its Wisconsin-based plants ratified last year, offering employees at three of its Milwaukee-area facilities voluntary layoffs as it reduces staff by about 26%. The plans were first announced in September of 2010 and The Motor Company began asking workers to take part in the voluntary layoffs the first week of December with Harley stating it will wait until the Dec. 23 deadline before deciding whether to begin company enforced layoffs. Financial incentives reportedly have been offered to employees who take them up on the offer, but specifics of the incentives haven’t been released.
Employees have to make the difficult decisions by this Friday as H-D wants to trim down its workforce by about 275 workers by next April. If enough workers don’t accept the offer, Harley will then have to make the call as to who stays and who goes as the company transitions from full-time employees to seasonal “casual” workers. Harley anticipates the move is among measures which will help it save about $50 million a year starting in 2013.
Initial reports say 200 positions will be cut from plants in the Milwaukee area by the end of 2012 and approximately 75 out of 275 positions at its Tomahawk facility will be nixed. Temporary “casual workers” will be hired to match seasonal production spikes, but they can be hired for less than full-time employees, are not entitled to medical or retirement benefits, and can be terminated at any time. In our prior article “Wisconsin Harley Workers Vote to Save Plants,” it was reported that positions filled by “casual workers” would receive an estimated $16.80 per hour compared to $30.50 paid to full-time employees doing the same job. Most of the people affected by the layoffs are members of the United Steelworkers and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers unions. Harley’s current hourly workers are considered part of the company’s overall headcount and are protected by union contracts which require negotiations on matters concerning benefits or downsizing.