Wabash National lays off 480 at Lafayette plant

Wabash National Corp has announced the immediate, temporary layoff of 480 hourly associates and an undetermined number of salaried employees – nearly 20% of its Lafayette, IN, work force. "This was a necessary business decision based on the required number of associates needed -- to better align the number of associates needed," Nick Fletcher, the company's vice president of human resources, told the Lafayette Journal and Courier. "This will 'lean out' the organization to fit what we need to run customer orders. We need to look at this and cut as much cost out of the business to go forward." Wabash now has about 2,000 full-time associates, at least 1,000 fewer than a year ago. At one time during the 1990s, Wabash had a work force of 5,000. Wabash National, one of the industry’s dominant trailer makers, manufactured 35,000 trailers in 2001 -- about 25 percent of the overall market but just over half of the 69,772 units it produced in 2000.Though Wabash hasn't announced its fourth-quarter or full-year financial report for 2001, revenue was off 34 percent to $696.7 million through the first nine months of the year. Losses were $98.6 million in that same period, compared to net income of $20.2 million the previous year.Last year also included the elimination of 100 jobs at a hardwood flooring plant in Sheridan, AR, and 100 jobs at a parts distribution warehouse in Chicago; the closure of retail distribution sites in Little Rock, Tampa, FL, and Fresno, CA; and the elimination of 400 jobs in Lafayette and 1,000 jobs with the closures of a parts distribution facility in Montebello, CA, and trailer assembly plants in Fort Madison, IA, and Huntsville, TN. Fletcher said that the layoff of 480 associates is expected to be a temporary furlough from work. "Obviously, we're very concerned about having to do this," he said. "When our customer order rate changes, we'll recall them as soon as possible. "I know this is going to hurt. It's going to hurt furniture stores and hurt retail stores."

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