May 11, 2009

Kokomo's Delphi lays off 200 more hourly workers

The city’s second-largest employer confirmed Monday that 200 hourly workers have been indefinitely laid off or separated from their jobs.

Coming from skilled trades and production at Delphi Electronics & Safety, 120 were given indefinite layoffs and 80 were separated from the company, said Linda S. Ferries, spokeswoman for Delphi Electronics & Safety.

That leaves Delphi with 270 skilled-trade workers.

UAW Local 292 president Ginny McMillian was unavailable for comment.

The news left Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight “concerned.”

“We have been following this over the last six months,” he said.

The last layoff of this scale occurred in January, Ferries said.

And this isn’t the end.

With its biggest customer, General Motors Corp., facing a June 1 restructuring or bankruptcy deadline — not to mention nine weeks of shuttered factories — more Delphi layoffs are expected, Ferries said.

“Next week through July, there will be significant temporary layoffs as GM does its shutdowns. This will include salaried employees as well,” Ferries said.

“With the change in the industry, [layoffs have] been ongoing for the past several years. As we need to respond to our customers’ declining demands, we have to cut back when they don’t need as much of our products.”

Help available

Completely or partially separated workers can find unemployment benefit assistance at WorkOne Kokomo, said Marc Lotter, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“They can use the main site, the auxiliary center or go online,” said Lotter, adding once an unemployment claim is filed, checks typically arrive within 21 days.

“Generally, the manufacturing industry goes through a furlough period. Most workers are very familiar with the system,” he said.

“We are organized to handle layoffs from 200 to 2,000 people. Our system and team are designed to ease them through the transition period.”

Furthermore, Lotter’s department announced an amended ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor that certain Delphi workers — including on-site leased workers from Acro Service Corp., Manpower and Manpower Professional — are eligible to receive services under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

TAA is available to workers who are displaced due to foreign imports or shifts in production out of the country. The workers at Delphi make various automotive components.

The ruling applies to workers separated from employment on or after Jan. 28, 2007, through Feb. 14, 2010.

TAA assists those out of work to prepare for employment. TAA services include job search, relocation allowances and training, as well additional re-adjustment allowances for unemployed workers who have exhausted their unemployment-insurance benefits.

“Employees are responsible for filing a petition and preparing the documents for TAA,” said Jay Jiang, Delphi’s senior manager of marketing, communications and public affairs.

“Using TAA, they can continue to upgrade their skills, learn new skills or re-train so they can get employed again.”

Lotter added the Department of Labor has issued a certification for Alternative Trade Adjustment for separated Delphi workers 50 years old or older.

The adjustment was issued because a significant number of older employees have skills they can’t easily use elsewhere.

Lotter said older workers have an option of choosing between regular TAA benefits or a wage subsidy of 50 percent of the difference between their salary, up to $10,000.

Hitting home

Regardless of the choice, Gary Brown, owner of Kokomo Sport Bowl, will feel the effects. His business at 2021 Cedar Crest Drive, across the street from Delphi, has seen better days.

“I can’t put a figure on it, but not as many as used to come in here for lunch,” said Brown, who purchased the establishment in November 2008.

“If we have 15 takeout orders and 12 in here, that’s a good day. But back in the day, it was full in here. I think we are at the bottom of the [economic] cycle now. We are coming back.”