As many as 225 workers who were laid off earlier this year could be recalled at the General Electric locomotive plant in far north Fort Worth by early next year as the manufacturer brings more work here from Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, GE announced plans to shift production of locomotives and kits for international customers from its Erie, Pa., facility. The move, which would eliminate 575 jobs in Erie, is subject to a 60-day bargaining period with union officials before it can be finalized.
“This job is all about being more competitive in the global manufacturing market and preserving U.S. jobs,” said Richard Simpson, GE Transportation’s vice president of global supply chain. “This is about using our manufacturing footprint in its most competitive way.”
Simpson said despite cost-saving initiatives in Erie, that facility continues to be its most expensive site to operate, it will still have around 2,000 employees after the production shift. The Fort Worth plant, built in 2013 west of the Texas Motor Speedway, is a non-union facility that the company says has lower labor costs and a more efficient design.
In Erie, Scott Slawson, president of Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, told The Associated Press that the decision amounts to “union busting.”
Texas is a right-to-work state, Slawson said, contending that workers in Fort Worth earn a low wage and “have zero loyalty to GE.”
GE’s Fort Worth facility currently has 600 employees and has built more than 1,400 locomotives. It turns out new locomotives, modifications and kits for railroads. Earlier this year, GE cut 250 positions at the plant, reflecting reduced demand from railroads, and in June employees started working a 32-hour workweek to save about 70 other jobs.
The plant is currently running at half of production capacity but the additional work could bring the Fort Worth plant back to full production, Simpson said. He added that GE hopes to begin recalling employees as early as the second quarter of 2018.
“GE’s proposed locomotive manufacturing relocation is another testament to the Texas business climate of low taxes and reasonable regulations, and a youthful and skilled workforce,” said Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce president Bill Thornton.
Boston-based GE has been trimming costs across the company after several quarters of weak earnings and a slumping stock price. GE Transportation has been battered by a drop in North American freight railcar loads of about 10 percent over the past couple of years.
This article contains material from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News.