Citing a slump in freight rail shipping, GE Manufacturing Solutions has begun laying off about one-third of its workforce at its locomotive plant in north Fort Worth, just west of the Texas Motor Speedway.
In all, about 250 hourly and salaried employees will lose their jobs at the plant that currently is producing on average nine to 10 freight locomotives a week. Plant opened in early 2013. Production at the plant will drop so much that the company said in a statement it will only need 50 percent “of the site’s available capacity.”
In June, the remaining employees will start working a 32-hour week, the company said. The reduced workweek will save about 70 jobs, the company has confirmed.
The layoffs will be completed by April 3, according to a letter filed Feb. 1 with the Texas Workforce Commission. “It is expected to be permanent,” the letter said.
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GE issued a statement last week saying the North American rail market continues to be challenging and that freight rail volume has dropped 4.5 percent from last year.
“More than 15 percent of the nation’s freight locomotive fleet remains parked,” the statement said.
In July 2016, the company produced its 1,000th locomotive at the Fort Worth plant at 16201 Three Wide Drive, off Texas 114. At that time, GE said it had about 700 employees at the plant.
It’s been pretty tough in the freight rail industry for quite some time. Unfortunately, it has impacted our volume.
Tim Bader, GE spokesman in Fort Worth
The company has now produced 1,200 locomotives here and continues to work through a backlog of orders, said Tim Bader, a GE spokesman in Fort Worth.
“It’s been pretty tough in the freight rail industry for quite some time,” Bader said. “Unfortunately, it has impacted our volume.”
The Erie Times-News in Pennsylvania reported recently that the company hasn’t taken an order for a new freight locomotive since 2014. Last year, the company laid off 1,500 of its 4,500 workers at its Erie plant.
In 2011, GE Manufacturing Solutions won an economic development incentive from the Fort Worth City Council. Since then, the incentive has been amended twice, the last time in December 2015 when the council agreed not to tie awarding bonus grant payments to the number of employees living in Fort Worth and the central city, but just to numbers.
The company sought the incentive restructuring because of declining sales, according to a city report. At a minimum, the company receives a 55 percent abatement on some of its real and business personal property taxes when it has at least 280 employees.