Bismarck ND (AP) — Bobcat Co. said it is temporarily laying off about 950 union workers beginning next week, the same time union workers at the plant begin labor negotiations.
“Read between the lines,” Randall Edison, treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 560, which represents about 1,050 workers in Gwinner, in southeastern North Dakota, said Thursday. “A hungry worker is probably much easier to deal with. The general feeling is, it’s pretty poor timing just when we are beginning our negotiations.”
Bobcat announced the layoffs at the Gwinner plant on Monday, Edison said. He said all but 100 of the company’s workers there have been told to not show up for work from Monday to Friday next week.
Union workers at the company’s sister plant in Bismarck went on strike Saturday, after their four-year contract expired. Salaried, nonunion workers have been bused to the plant to keep it running.
Bobcat spokeswoman Wendy Bost said the Gwinner layoffs “are unrelated to the Bismarck strike.”
“We have made an announcement of our plans to adjust production in October,” Bost said. “I have nothing further to comment. I’m not in a position to provide details.”
Edison said the company also plans weeklong mass layoffs in November and January.
Labor negotiations are slated for next Thursday and Friday, Edison said. The labor contract expires in December.
Edison said the planned layoffs next week come after 18 months of “mandatory overtime,” which has included working Saturdays and 10-hour shifts.
Bobcat is a unit of Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd., an equipment manufacturer. Bobcat plants in Bismarck and Gwinner manufacture machinery for light construction.