November 7, 2008

Theis lays off 20 workers, eliminates third shift

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:
With orders declining in the troubled economy, Theis Precision Steel Corp. is eliminating its third shift and laying off nearly 20 percent of its union workforce, a company executive said Thursday.
Bill Ramaccia, vice president of finance and general administration at Theis, said the global financial crisis is taking a toll on Theis.
"We're responding to the current slowness in our sales, much like companies in this and many other industries," said Ramaccia, who said the company saw a 30 percent drop in incoming sales in October.
Theis has 104 hourly workers represented by Local 712 of the United Auto Workers Union. 
Of those, 20 will be laid off starting Monday, said Ramaccia.
Unlike a restructuring earlier this year that cost 30 union workers their jobs, Ramaccia said Theis plans to call this group of 20 back to the factory as soon as possible.
"We're very hopeful," said Ramaccia, who said Theis intends to use "a very aggressive" sales program to boost business.
But Ramaccia said it was "extremely difficult" to say when sales would be robust enough to bring the workers back.
"Things are still so uncertain," said Ramaccia. 
Ramaccia said the layoffs were needed, but that they weren't easy.
"These are very deliberative actions. These are not actions we take lightly," said Ramaccia. "We regret having to do that."
Zeke Zalaski, president of Local 712, said the jobs are mostly semi-skilled but also include some skilled workers. Most are earning $18 to $22 an hour, he said.
"They're very upset," Zalaski said, especially because the holiday season is beginning. "They lose their insurance as of the end of the month. They either go Cobra or head for Husky."
Layoffs will be done by seniority, Zalaski said and will include some who have been on the job for as long as 15 years. He said the company has promised to bring the workers back as soon as possible.
"They're committed that they're going to call all these people back once the orders start up again after the first of the year," Zalaski said.
In the meantime, the union is trying to get help for the laid off workers from the state Department of Labor with unemployment, health care and other assistance.
"The people are scared. There's layoffs all over this country," said Henry Raymond, a union steward at Theis. "Everybody's on edge. It's very hard. The company's in a bind. The union's in a bind. We pray that it's only temporary."
Zalaski said everyone understands the situation and how fortunes are tied.
"We're all in it together," said Zalaski. "There's not much animosity between us anymore."
Both union and company officials said the company is solid and not closing.
"In the last three months, they've made money," said Zalaski. "The place is turned around."
Through its German parent company, Theis invested $1 million into a program to boost productivity.
"You don't spend that kind of money if you're thinking of closing," Zalaski said.
Ramaccia, who has served as the company's chief financial officer for 22 years, said the extensive program ran from March until June. It was a serious restructuring to improve Theis for the future by building revenue, controlling costs and improving productivity.
"They are pushing the guys a lot harder than they used to," said Zalaski. He said productivity is definitely up.
During the restructuring, Ramaccia said, three or four salaried workers were laid off, as well as 30 union workers.
After the layoffs Monday, there will be 84 union and 33 salaried employees, which include sales positions, Ramaccia said.
The current global economy challenges workers with constant changes, according to Ramaccia. People have to come to work prepared to do something different each day, he said.
"We saw a very marked slowness" in sales in October, said Ramaccia. He said the "sharp decline" in the automotive and housing industries had an impact on Theis, which he said is a "middle market manufacturer."
Theis buys coils of steel and customizes it for buyers, rolling, thinning, and cutting the metal to a specific thickness and hardness.
Customers that used to order a year in advance are no longer doing that, Ramaccia said, making planning and advance purchases difficult for Theis.
The customers are giving "very little definitive" information about what their future orders will be, Ramaccia said.
Zalaski said customers are pushing back orders until after the first of the year, creating a slowdown in work.
And besides the advance sales in limbo, Theis is seeing very little in the way of spontaneous orders, Ramaccia said.
Slowdowns in sales have happened before, said Ramaccia, but in this economy, it's different.
"In the past, we used to try to wait for sales to catch up," said Ramaccia, but he said Theis can't do that anymore.
Raymond, who has worked at Theis for 25 years, said the company had more than 200 union workers when he started there and ran three shifts, seven days a week.
He's never seen things this dire, said Raymond, because this economic crisis is of global proportions.
"Nobody's safe in these times," Raymond said. "We never went through this before."
Zalaski said Theis sold off some "real old furnaces" for scrap and has been sprucing things up inside. He said it's for the customers who thought the place "looked like a dungeon," said Zalaski. "It's not to sell it."
He's seen this before, said Zalaski, at Associated Spring, which shares Local 712 with Theis workers.
Associated Spring, which does 70 percent of its work for the automotive industry, Zalaski said, laid off a dozen people about two months ago, due to the economy. There are now 86 union workers at the downtown factory, he said.
Zalaski, who won the union presidency post in June, started at Associated Spring 30 years ago. At the time, there were 600 workers there, he said. Just six years ago, the number was at 225.
"It's constantly gone down," said Zalaski.
Union workers at Associated Spring took a five year wage freeze last year to protect their jobs, Zalaski said.
Theis workers did the same for a three-year contract that started in 2006, and last year, Zalaski said, Associated Spring did a little sprucing up inside its plant like Theis did recently at its Broad Street factory.
*******
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

These unfortunate people can thank their precious UAW for their job loss.

Anonymous said...

your are right 912 they should be working for the same wages that the china people work for .Then were would you be?

Reality Hurtz said...

Many decisions are being made now that the annointed one has been elected .

This is NOT just a local issue . Look @ the stock market .... It is currently experiencing the LARGEST post election DROP in recorded history .

Thank You for proving the majority of voters got this one wrong .

Anonymous said...

November 7, 2008 9:48 AM:

Did the Chinese go on strike a few years ago and picket in front of their bosses house to try and intimidate him?

Do the Chinese make specialty steel or is that what the UAW hacks tell you?

Do long lead times and high shipping costs trump local suppliers always, or just when the unions are greedy and unwilling to bend?

Anonymous said...

November 7, 2008 10:16 AM:

Right and Obama wants to allow unions to intimidate workers more into forced membership and organization. That should REALLY make the Chinese excited.

Hey UAW, keep giftwrapping more jobs for the Chinese ASAP!

Anonymous said...

Henry Raymond:

The best thing you could do for your fellow Theis workers is to expedite ridding the union from Theis.

Do it fast before that German company that owns Theis closes your plant down completely.

Anonymous said...

Unions will be a thing of the past once this whole mess with the economy starts to works its way out. Has anyone started to pay attention to what companies are losing money and laying people off? They are all union! The Dems better do something or your life-line in politics is about to disappear! LOL!

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone started to pay attention to what companies are losing money and laying people off? They are all union!"

Geez, I didn't know that Merryl Lynch, Lehmann Brothers, Freddie and Fannie were Union shops. Actually, they were not but had CEO's and COO's who got millions of dollars in golden parachutes after running those companies into the ground.

It is as inaccurate to say that Union's created this mess as it would be for me to say that the shareholders created the mess for those companies.

Get off the Union stuff for a while and realize that the non-union companies are not fairing any better.

Anonymous said...

November 7, 2008 2:11 PM:

Over zealous and greedy unions have been driving the manufacturing base from this region for decades. This isn't a direct result of the current financial crisis. The current financial crisis is the catalyst of downfall of business from the areas that are extensively pro-union. Cases in point: the rust belt vs. the sun belt.

Anonymous said...

Good ole NDH, right Tom?

Anonymous said...

well wackos China has just past a law to encourage the unions to start organizing the major manufactures inthier country.Greed is what wall street is ,just take a look at what they have done.No unioms there .

Anonymous said...

No one said unions were the reason for the recent finacial crisis. Actually it was two government created companies, Freddie Mac and Fannie May. And the top three U.S. senators getting big Fannie and Freddie political bucks were Democrats and No. 2 is Sen. Barack Obama. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423701,00.html)

Saying unions created this latest finacial crisis is like saying unions created communism (actually it was the other way around). BUt the point is that Theis would be in better shape to ward off this economic downturn if it weren't unionized. Just like southern states that are much less pro-union than rust belt states have much higher business and job growth.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Those finical companies are losing money because of greed, correct...But Union companies are finally feeling the pitch because of their high prices - which are from Union contracts. Lets be real here people..GM and FORD would not be in this mess if they were a private company and cars did not cost 30K....Same as Theiss and the rest of them. Other then these companies that made bad bets on the sub-prime....Unions have been slowly killing small business and its finally starting to show its true colors....My only question is what does a union do that the US labor department cant do? We have strict labor laws...so what does a union do for you? Better pay? Better benefits? telling a company what to do with their profits? How to hire? Who to hire? Other then the banks - the poster up top is correct - really the only business that is closing is Union places. Very sad! Its even sadder to know that more places are about to close or layoff thousands.

Anonymous said...

November 7, 2008 11:44 PM:

Sorry anonwestconndope, If you "ask GM" and almost every analyst and economist in the country one of GMs biggest problems is their guaranteed retirement packages for union organized retirees and their families, not to mention the labore guarantees that the company has been forced to accept by the UAW. The unions are the biggest problem GM has had for decades.

Some day I hope you'll mature and become knowledgable.

Anonymous said...

One of the top items on the new democrat congress is the strengthening of the unions ability to organize a union shop.

Watch out folks!

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The only way for Ford and GM to survive is to pull their symbol off the stock market re-group and go private. There is no other way to manage their business unless it goes non-union. I can not see how they can stay a float with rising medical cost for their retirees and keep the price of cars down...Its just not really going to happen. Its very sad - but it seems that one of the biggest unions in history is about to go belly up.

Anonymous said...

If Ford and GM build great cars and trucks that outperform their competition in terms of performance, fuel economy and reliability then they will be able to justify a premium pricing strategy.

Toyota and Honda have been doing that for years. You certainly can buy a cheaper American alternative to any of their products but people are willing to pay more for higher quality or the perception of higher quality.

Anonymous said...

The sad news is that the Unemployment Rate is rising; the good news is that George Bush will be on the rolls....

Anonymous said...

It's too bad GM isn't hiring; the WestConn student might have gotten a job and learned first-hand about how unions can destroy a business. There would be a lot of time to think about it while relaxing in the restroom with a newspaper or sitting in your seat half the day, waiting for a pan of work to be moved six feet closer.

Anonymous said...

"anonwestconnstudent" is a pathetic but typical example of the majority of our college age youth. They sit attend mediocre taxpayer funded universities and whine about the tuition while reading neo-communist, left wing rags like the NYT and dishing out their warped policy theories (the students as well as the left wing rags), voting for clueless stooges like Obama, while they patiently waity for graduation and the nanny state to provide them with the American dream.

Anonymous said...

Well said, 12:43.

Anonymous said...

Theis, The Bristol Press...hate to say it, but I told you so. Let's see who else is going out, now that Obamanation is president-elect.

Ouch, you forgot your flashlights, ouch, ooch...

Anonymous said...

DHL - another Union company lays off! Wake up people! The worst yet come! You voted change - oh boy is it coming!

uaw: bad for business said...

The average "Big Three" worker get's paid 130% more than the average manufacturing worker in the US. That's a good reason why the "Big Three" are going down the tubes.

Anonymous said...

Collect unemployment, live on hot dogs, pick up clothes at Goodwill... Yes, we can!

Anonymous said...

We can, and we will have to.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows that the machinery of capitalism is oiled by the blood of the working class!! Once we have gotten rid of the pesky unions and their advocacy for democracy, better wages, and health & safety concerns, then we banksters and parasitic wealthy people will be able to pay a pittance for labor, and all you working stiffs will be killing each other for mere crumbs! Why, I'll be able to hire one half of the working class to kill off the other half!!!

Montgomery Burns, CEO