A Berne factory which began 2012 with 225 full-time employees and was down to 140 by year's end, now plans to move some of its operations to other plants and is seeking a buyer for the remainder of the business.
It is not clear how the remaining workers at Ficosa North America will be affected, officials said, although it's likely some will lose their jobs.
The movement of the work is expected to be completed by the end of May.
Ficosa is a supplier to the auto industry
Lisa Norris, Ficosa’s Tennessee-based corporate human relations director, told Sherry Slater of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that molding and assembly work performed in Berne will be transferred to other factories. Workers will be offered the opportunity to follow those jobs.
“We really would love to have their expertise,” she told Slater, adding that officials realize many employees are reluctant to leave their families.
About half of the plant's employees are in the painting operation.
According to the Journal Gazette, Norris said Ficosa is talking to an unnamed company “with a high level of interest” about acquiring the painting part of the business, If an agreement is reached, the new owner would likely employ many of the existing workers, Norris said.
Norris told Slater that the Spain-based company has a long-term lease on the factory, giving it a long-term interest in bringing in a new owner, However, it still needs to come to agreement with the union that represents hourly workers: Workers United Local 295C.
Pat Cronin, secretary-treasurer of Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, told the Journal Gazetete that Ficosa last year asked Berne workers to accept cuts to jobs, wages and benefits. He also noted that workers have agreed several times to pay and benefits cuts by previous employers and are tired of doing so.
The Berne plant has had eight or nine owners in the past 25 years.