SCHENECTADY — General Electric on Aug 7. further reduced a workforce that has seen repeated layoffs over the past two years, cutting 225 jobs.
The international electrical giant, by far the city’s most-prominent business, cited a decline in power equipment sales and issues facing the international power industry, including many countries reducing their reliance on large-scale power plants and price pressures.
The layoffs will affect about 200 hourly production employees — about 5 percent of the workforce — at the sprawling main campus, which looms over Interstate-890 at the end of Erie Boulevard. In addition, about 25 vacant positions won’t be filled.
“Based on the ongoing challenges facing the power industry and a 45-percent decline in volume at our Schenectady facilities, GE announced a job reduction impacting a number of manufacturing and assembly employees today,” the company said in a press release. “This action is difficult and does not reflect the performance, dedication and hard work of our employees. All impacted employees will be provided with a comprehensive severance package, including transition support to new employment.”
Workers at the plant are represented by IUE-CWA Local 301. There have been rumors of job cuts for weeks. Under union rules, it is the most-recent hires who are likely to lose their jobs.
“The recent decision by GE Power to lay off our members is extremely disheartening and disappointing,” union Business Agent Rob Macherone said in a prepared statement. “This company was built on our members’ backs, and they continue to pay a price for things outside their control. Our focus right now is ensuring those affected by these cuts receive all of their contractual benefits, and going forward, we will continue to fight for job security for our members.”
Reactions to the news varied.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said he understands the plant in Schenectady needs to be globally competitive, and said the city will do what it can to help workers find new jobs.
“It’s always unfortunate, and it’s really hard on the individuals who are affected,” he said.
Schenectady County Legislature Majority Leader Gary E. Hughes, D-Schenectady, said the county’s employment training program will work with GE and the laid off workers to help them land new jobs, noting the region has a number of small manufacturers looking for skilled workers.
“We’re way better off economically as a community to deal with this than we were a few years ago,” said Hughes, who is also chairman of the county’s Economic Development Committee. “GE hires well and trains well, so you leave there with a set of skills that other employers want.”
The layoffs come amid continuing turmoil at the company, which is nearly synonymous with Schenectady in many people’s minds. What would become the modern global conglomerate was founded in the city in 1889 by inventor Thomas Edison. It became General Electric following a merger in 1892.
During World War II, the firm’s payroll hit 45,000.
Most recently, the company had about 4,000 people working on steam turbines and other technology. GE Power announced plans for 12,000 job cuts globally in December, without specifying where those jobs would be eliminated. The company said it was working to cut $1 billion in costs in order to remain competitive.
“If GE is reducing its workforce globally by 12,000, it was inevitable there would be some impact on the Schenectady plant,” Hughes said. “This is directly connected to the amount of work coming into the plant.”
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, reacted angrily, noting the corporation remains profitable and its executives well-compensated, and retiree health insurance was eliminated earlier this year.
“This latest move by GE will hurt working families in our community and amounts to nothing more than corporate greed,” Santabarbara said in a prepared statement. “Over the years, this community has shown immense dedication to the company, and unfortunately, GE has not shown that same dedication to our community.
“We need to accept the fact that this company does not have the best interests of this community in mind when making decisions.”
GE made a series of smaller job cuts at its Schenectady plant last year. About 75 salaried workers were let go in November, while 35 were cut in January 2017. GE Power has historically been based in Schenectady, but the current head of GE Power, Russell Stokes, is based in Atlanta, and the company no longer refers to Schenectady as Power’s headquarters.
General Electric also announced a corporate restructuring plan in June that concluded power generation should remain one of its areas of focus.
General Electric’s other major presence in the Capital Region is its Global Research headquarters in Niskayuna, which employs roughly 1,500, many of them scientists and engineers doing advanced research.
Daily Gazette reporter Andrew Beam contributed to this story.