GST AutoLeather will end production at their plant near Williamsport, USA, by the end of September, retaining only a small fraction of the workforce. According to Unite Here, the union representing the employees, the development ends months of speculation among the plant’s 400 manufacturing workers. GST shut down their cutting plant last year and announced in January the retanning operation would close by the end of July. In addition to around 50 administrative jobs, about half of the 400 workers are involved with the plant’s retanning department. The rest work in the finishing department.

In four staggered notifications to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation from June 3-29, GST human resources director Bill Walker said the layoffs involve workers in all remaining sectors of the tannery, including plant operations, engineering and maintenance, manufacturing quality assurance, finance and human resources. Accompanying data indicates that while some administrative workers will be affected, the majority of the jobs are involved with production and manufacturing.

Patrick Baker, state administrator for dislocated services with the DLLR, said based upon his conversations with GST officials, the layoffs amount to a plant closure. GST officials told him the action is a mass layoff, rather than plant closure, because a skeleton crew of about 30 workers will remain to perform a variety of unspecified functions. ‘My understanding is that there will be some presence. However, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to be any of the manufacturing processes’, Baker said. ‘They’re still calling it a mass layoff because there will be a presence at the plant.’

The elimination of production jobs at the Williamsport plant is closely tied to a long-term agreement GST entered into with Mexican company Cueros Industrializados del Bajio SA de CV to move the work to two plants there. Baker said in addition to other state and federal assistance, the workers are eligible for aid under the federal Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Program because the work is being moved to plants in Mexico.