Freightliner to lay off 1,250 employees in Mt. Holly, Cleveland

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Workers at Daimler’s truck manufacturing plants in Mount Holly and Cleveland, North Carolina, said they were told Monday morning that the company is cutting hundreds of jobs at each plant at the end of the week.

Daimler has taken over the plants that were run by Freightliner in Rowan and Gaston counties, and workers at the plant in Cleveland told Eyewitness News the announcement of job cuts came as a shock to many.

“I know that I'm one of the ones that's going to be laid off, so it's going to affect me,” said Andre Tucker, who began working at the plant in May 2014.

Tucker said he expects that Friday will be his last day on the job, but that the company is offering to pay the employees who lose their jobs through the middle of April.

“Right now probably the biggest thing is to figure out the next step as far as trying to find a new job,” Tucker, who has a wife and two children, said.

Daimler confirmed the job cuts late Monday, saying that 700 jobs would be cut in Mount Holly and 550 in Cleveland, due to a reduction in orders for their trucks.

The company told workers about the cuts in a series of town hall meetings. Jamall Cuthbertson, who has worked in the plant in Cleveland for about 20 years, said it was a tough day.

“Just some sad people this morning. It's just terrible right now,” he said.

The pain reaches far past the company’s fence. Daimler is one of the biggest employers in Rowan County and laid off almost 900 employees in January. You don’t have to go any farther than the convenience store across the highway to find the impact of the layoffs.

“Everybody around here's been hurting, and it's going to hurt even more,” said Bibi  Bacchus, who runs the register there.

The local United Way held a workshop and job fair for employees laid off in January, and may have to repeat it for this round of workers.

But the man who heads up economic development in Rowan County says the job picture is still bright.

“We are starting to diversify and we do have a number of employers across sectors that are looking to add people,” Robert Van Geons said.

Read the statement from Daimler Trucks:

Pursuant to the notification requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 ("WARN"), Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has announced that it will implement a reduction in force of approximately 700 employees at its Mt. Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant and approximately 550 employees at its Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant, effective April 16, 2016. Employees at the Mt. Holly and Cleveland plants were notified in Town Hall meetings yesterday and today.

The last day of work for employees affected by this announcement will be Friday, February 19, 2016 in both facilities. Impacted employees will receive payment in lieu of the notice period at each employee's regular rate of pay, and employees are free to seek and accept other employment during the notice period without jeopardizing their entitlement to the WARN period payment or benefits.

As of February 22, the workforce at the Mt. Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant will be reduced from approximately 2,150 to approximately 1,450 employees, with plant operations scaled back to two full shifts per day. The workforce at the Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant will be reduced from approximately 2,150 to approximately 1,600, with plant production scheduled at one full shift per day. The Cleveland reduction in force is in addition to a previous workforce adjustment announced in January affecting approximately 936 employees at the Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant, effective March 5, 2016.

These workforce adjustments are in response to a sustained reduction in orders and a diminished build rate, and are expected to be temporary, based on future market developments. 2015 was an extraordinarily strong market for trucks in NAFTA. DTNA anticipates the North American truck market Class 6 to 8 to be down around minus 10 percent in 2016. This is still expected to be above the 2014 Class 6 to 8 market.

The Mt. Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant is located in Mt. Holly, North Carolina and manufactures medium-duty Freightliner trucks. The Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant is located in Cleveland, North Carolina and manufactures heavy-duty Freightliner and Western Star trucks.

The company has no further comment pertaining to the announcement.