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Ark. Auto Manufacturers Plagued By Worker Problems

Governor says state now pre-screens employees because companies complain many workers quit after a few days.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday the state is pre-screening potential employees for auto parts manufacturers in the Delta because companies were complaining that many workers quit after just a few days.
''What they said was that they were continuously having folks work for four or five days, or sometimes two days or three days and then quit, just never show up again,'' Beebe told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.
''As a result of that, they weren't at the workforce levels they needed to meet their quotas or meet the production requirements of their home offices,'' Beebe said. ''They were wasting time and constantly having to have a new crop of folks in taking their place.''
Beebe would not name the auto parts manufacturers that had complained about unprepared workers.
The state now puts potential workers through a simulation that will weed out employees who are not serious about that type of work, Beebe said.
''We reacted to that by instituting a screening process that, as much as you possibly can, can simulate the kinds of conditions and activities or expectations that these companies would have when they hired employees and when we send them employees,'' Beebe said.
In March, Toyota Motor Corp. passed over the east Arkansas city of Marion and instead picked Tupelo, Miss., for a plant that will make Highlander sports utility vehicles. Four years ago, Toyota selected San Antonio for a Tundra plant.
Marion is home to a $235 million Hino Parts Ltd. parts plant that makes axles and other components for Toyota's Tundra pickup, and Hino recently announced a $70 million expansion of that facility.
Hino is Toyota's commercial-vehicle unit.
Beebe said Toyota never mentioned problems with the area's workforce as the reason for passing over Marion, but said he believed it may have been a factor in the company's decision.
''Was that a factor? Logic and common sense tells you it could have been. It may have been,'' Beebe said. ''But do I have anyone from Toyota who told me that specifically? No.''
When Toyota announced its Tupelo plant, it praised the Mississippi workforce.
Arkansas is the only state in the region without an automobile assembly plant.

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