GE Transportation made it official today, giving a formal WARN notice of layoffs at the Erie plant.  Company officials met with UE 506 leadership about the plans, with the word spreading quickly through the plant.

The notice is required by law under The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, when a mass layoff is anticipated. It gives both hourly and salaried workers 60 days notice to prepare for possible job losses. 

GE Transportation officials have said since April that they planned to transfer the production of locomotives and mining equipment to a new facility in Fort Worth, Texas, where labor costs are lower. The trigger for this warn notice is that Erie GE is anticipating a layoff of 500 workers or more.

According to UE 506 President Scott Duke, union leaders were told that the layoffs will begin on November 4.  Duke doesn't expect the full 500 workers to be cut right away. Now the difficult bumping process will begin to decide which employees stay or go.  UE 506 will turn it's attention to making sure that process is a smooth one.  "In 2009, when the last major layoff went down and 1400 people walked away, it was chaos and by rights it wasn't done right, we need to make sure this time it's done right," said Duke.

In an official statement released by GE Transportation, the company said, " We are taking this difficult step to meet an increasingly challenging marketplace that required us to reduce costs and improve flexibility to maintain our competitiveness." 

The company confirmed that up to 500 hourly employees may be affected and will be notified over the next 60 days.  Employees on Permanent Lack of Work status will receive Income Extension Aid based on their years of service and will continue to receive medical benefits.  Those impacted by the transfer of work will be entitled to benefits under the national agreement with the UE, and that includes rate guarantees, educational benefits and preferential hiring at certain other GE locations.

Union officials continue to hope that an influx of new orders might change the number of workers out the door.  UE President Duke and others say that GE Transportation President and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli is traveling to Kazakhstan and Turkey as he works to secure new orders.