Freightliner's Alternate Workweeks Preventing Layoffs

Union members at North Carolina truck manufacturing plant agreed to work alternate weeks to save nearly 1,500 jobs.

CLEVELAND, N.C. (AP) - Union members at a Freightliner LLC plant have agreed to work alternate weeks to save nearly 1,500 jobs at the truck manufacturer.

''Our members came together to protect jobs for all, even at personal loss of available work,'' said George Drexel IV, president of United Auto Workers Local 3520. ''I am proud of the decision our union made.''

The vote was held Saturday, when about 89 percent of those participating voted to alternate layoff weeks at the Cleveland plant, located about 44 miles north of Charlotte. Workers will maintain full benefits, Drexel said.

Freightliner had given the state Commerce Department a required 60-day notice in May warning of a pending ''mass layoff'' that could occur July 10. The alternate work schedule, which starts July 16, averts that layoff.

Freightliner laid off 1,180 workers April 1. If the July layoff of 1,489 people had occurred, anyone hired Aug. 19, 1996, or later, would have lost their job. But the union members decided instead to share the work between the newer and more veteran employees, the UAW said in a news release.

Freightliner officials have blamed the layoffs on new diesel emissions standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, saying they caused less demand for Freightliner's Class 8 trucks. The Cleveland plant is scheduled to start production in August of the Cascadia, a new model of Class 8 trucks that meet the emissions standards.

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