WATERLOO — Disappointing, but not unexpected.
That’s how one United Auto Workers Local 838 official described John Deere’s announcement Monday that 115 Deere Waterloo workers and another 30 at the Davenport works are being placed on indefinite layoff by the end of September.
The announcement came after company officials announced a 10th consecutive quarter of declining year-over-year earnings Friday and noted a sustained agricultural downturn “has been most pronounced in the sale of higher-horsepower models,” which are made in Waterloo.
“It was pretty much expected,” said Tim Niedert, a UAW Local 838 shop chairman who, along with other union representatives, met with company officials and affected employees Monday morning.“It isn’t just Deere,” Niedert said, noting other ag equipment manufacturers and dealers “have a high inventory right now” in proportion to product demand.
Niedert said some workers had already been on temporary layoff as company officials tried to adjust production to meet demand. The Deere-UAW contract allows temporary layoff “inventory adjustment shutdowns” under which workers could be idled up to 16 weeks in a production year. The layoffs announced Monday, however, are indefinite.
“It’s a bad deal,” UAW Local 838 President Tom Ralston said. “Our hearts go out to the guys and gals getting affected. We’ll do everything we can to make sure they have all the benefits coming to them. We were hoping we were done with this, and it turned out not to be the case.”
Ralston said 663 Deere Waterloo workers are still on indefinite layoff following a pair of major work force reductions announced in fall 2014 and spring 2015 that initially idled about 1,000 people. Some workers have been called back since then and subsequent layoffs were announced but did not occur.
“We had just called back 25 in the Foundry,” Niedert said, in a move by company and union officials to bring as much outsourced work back into the plant as possible as provided under the contract. That was just two weeks ago.
Workers affected by the current layoff are at other facilities in town, including tractor cab assembly on East Donald Street and drive train operations along Westfield Avenue near downtown, among others. Foundry operations function separately, with a separate seniority list.Ralston and Niedert said the union will meet with affected workers over the next month.
“We’ll get together with them at the union hall like we did the last time and go through what