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Voluntary Layoffs for Wisconsin Harley Workers

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Harley Davidson Motorcycles
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.

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Mike in WV   December 27, 2011 08:11 AM
"harleys are not for everyone nor is everyone worthy enough to own a harley" is one of the most stupid comments I've ever seen. Anyone who thinks the bike they own gives them a certain status does not posses the qualities of that status they desire. Simply put...the bike doesn't make the man. There are just as many low income/low intelligence individuals out there riding HD's because they think it makes them better people. I have a 2011 Road Glide Ultra and it's an OK bike...not the best or worst of previous bikes I've owned. I can say this without reservation though...if HD starts producing bikes out of the US and imports them here to sell, this will be my last HD. My Victory bikes have all been top quality and their marketing strategy has been very effective. Very excited to see what they do with the Indian brand.
wildpig   December 24, 2011 06:31 AM
harleys are not for everyone nor is everyone worthy enough to own a harley............................ i have that comment trademarked btw.....
Piglet2010   December 23, 2011 05:52 PM
-wildpig- I could have bought a H-D cruiser good for riding to the bar and back, or for the same money my Honda NHX110 scooter, NT700V sport-tourer, and CBR600F4i sport-bike. My neighbors' H-D's sit in their garages while I ride every day unless the roads have snow/ice on them. Maybe I will by a CRF230L and some tire studs for the snow.
wildpig   December 22, 2011 07:22 PM
pig head doesnt have a clue....................he lives in a comic book world.......... jealous of harley cuz like most who critcize hd-- he cant afford one......
Piglet2010   December 22, 2011 06:05 PM
H-D mostly sells to older men who want a toy so they can pretend to be an outlaw a few weekends a year. The real potential market in the US are people who do not currently ride, and H-D does little to nothing to appeal to them (other manufacturers are also guilty of this). Of course it does not help that US riders are generally weather wimps - I have been riding every day to work here in Iowa, but have only seen two other bikes on the road since the beginning of November.
Piglet2010   December 22, 2011 05:58 PM
Is H-D upper management taking pay cuts, or having layoffs? I doubt it.
Piglet2010   December 22, 2011 05:57 PM
-sloppy- H-D is making bikes in India since even a small portion of 1.3 billion people is a huge market. Import tariffs in India basically double the price of imported motorcycles, so H-D will be assembling "knock-down" bikes there.
Maxx   December 22, 2011 06:57 AM
And so it begins
Hecklerboy   December 22, 2011 05:28 AM
Sounds like business as usual to me. We have the same problem where I work. Whenever a contract runs out we have to layoff some of the workforce until another contract comes in. It's just the nature of the beast.
Production work isn't the steady 8-5 job it used to be.
$30 an hour to work on a production floor is almost no existent.
Unions are on their way out and pensions are a thing of the past.
It sucks, but that's the way it is.
dabimf   December 22, 2011 01:49 AM
Gotta love the unions. Its no wonder their motorcycles cost so much. $30.50 an hour PLUS benefits??? Maybe the union bosses should be laid off. How about taking a pay cut so that the company can avoid layoffs all together. I spoke with a salesman at our local HD dealership who stated that about 80% of the bikes they get from the factory have to have something corrected right out of the box. Seems HD has more problems than money right now.
sloppy   December 21, 2011 08:26 PM
Piglet: you couldn't be more wrong. Pay attention to whats on the road. It's cruiser first, then sport bikes. The reason H-D is doing this is to move production overseas. The Sportsters sold on India are either currently made in India or soon will be. I don;t have a Harley and I think they are boring but money is money and sending cheap labor overseas is what is happening across the board.
Piglet2010   December 21, 2011 06:43 PM
Well, 30 years ago, H-D decided not to compete in the market against other manufacturers, but rather to concentrate on the retro-cruiser niche market. Worked well for a quarter-century, but the long-term consequences of no real innovation may now be coming home to roost. And there have been other bad decisions, such as not giving Buell its own distribution channel - your typical H-D dealership is not a place many feel comfortable going into, due to the 1% MC image, nor were most of the sales people interested in selling sportbikes.
irksome   December 21, 2011 06:24 PM
F**k Harley and the iron horse they rode in on. How many of the mid- and upper-level managers and execs are losing jobs or taking pay cuts for the inept decision making process that infects this marketing and financing firm that happens to make archaic motorcycles?
Piglet2010   December 21, 2011 06:12 PM
Keith Wandell must not have watched "Roger & Me", or he would know that layoffs right before Christmas do not go over well with the public.