Exactly how many of the 400 to 500 employees will lose their jobs is still unclear
ORISKANY — Daimler Buses North America’s announcement April 25 that it would stop manufacturing transit buses in North America means an end to manufacturing at its Orion Bus plant in the Oneida County Industrial Park in about a year. After that, it will become a parts and service facility.
The company did not say exactly how many employees would lose their jobs but did say that it would provide a separation benefit to all employees who are laid off. Daimler also did not say exactly how many employees it has at Orion in Oriskany, but employee David Cirasuolo of New York Mills says the plant has about 300 union employees plus another 100-plus management and salaried employees. One other local media report said the Oriskany facility currently employs 480 and another report said it was nearly
“[Orion] anticipate[s] there will be phased layoffs of employees, and they wanted us to know this is a case where the outcome really isn’t a reflection on the quality of work,” Cirasuolo told The Business Journal in an April 25 email. He said the company didn’t provide workers any information on how many employees would be retained once the plant is no longer building buses.
Cirasuolo, who has worked at Orion for 15 years, said he has no idea what he will do when the layoff becomes a reality. “I’ll be 46 and have to decide on going to school or moving out of state,” he said. “We all know this area does not have much for decent jobs.”
The New York Department of Labor dispatched a “rapid response team” to meet with company officials and employees, Labor Department Spokesperson Leo Rosales said the day of Daimler’s announcement. The team planned to meet with workers to make sure they are aware of resources available to them, including unemployment, and hope to talk with company officials about holding a customized career fair for Orion workers.
This is not the first time the Orion bus plant in Oriskany has faced major layoffs. In October 2010, Daimler eliminated 101 jobs at the facility in response to the cyclical decline in demand across the transit-bus industry, company officials said at the time. Daimler also initiated a hiring freeze on all new, non-essential vacant positions, and a review of all discretionary spending, at Orion.
As part of the new reconfiguration of its North America bus operations, Daimler announced that it had signed a letter of intent with Motor Coach Industries International, Inc. (MCI) to establish a strategic partnership to combine MCI’s product, service, and sales network with Setra’s North American coach distribution rights and network. Daimler expects to finalize the partnership by May 31 at which time it will receive a minority ownership stake in MCI, and MCI will become the exclusive North American distributor of the Setra S407 and S417 German–manufactured premium motor coaches.
Under the proposed agreement, MCI will take several months to evaluate operations related to Setra in North America and, where appropriate, integrate operations with existing MCI facilities in order to achieve operating synergies.
As a result of the proposed agreement, Daimler’s Orion facilities in Oriskany and Mississauga, Ontario will cease taking new orders and will continue the fulfillment of current orders over the next 12 months. Once orders are fulfilled, Daimler will close the Mississauga facility and continue a retrofit parts and field-service program for current customers at the Oriskany facility.
“Daimler Buses considered all possible options for reconfiguring our transit-bus operations in North America, but at the end of the day, Orion is facing a situation where the cost position is not competitive, the local market is in a continued slump, and growth opportunities are not available from selling the product overseas,” Daimler Buses head, Hartmut Schick, said in a news release.
Stuttgart, Germany–based Daimler sold 39,740 buses and coaches worldwide in 2011. While sales remained strong in Latin America, sales in Western Europe and North America suffered from public-sector budget constraints, company officials said.
Daimler, owned by European, U.S., and other international investors, reported revenue of 106.5 billion Euros in 2011 and employs 271,370 people. Daimler has manufacturing facilities in 17 countries producing the Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Maybach, Freightliner, Western Star, BharatBenz, Fuso, Setra, Orion, and Thomas Built Buses brands.