Furlough for plant workers

Posted Dec. 19, 2008, at 7:46 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Auto parts maker ZF Lemforder announced Friday that 45 employees have been furloughed at its Brewer plant for three to four weeks.

Bryan Johnson, spokesman for ZF Group in Northville, Mich., said the layoffs were precipitated by General Motors and Mercedes shutdowns. With no cars being manufactured, he said, there is no demand for the steering components made at the Brewer plant.

The company makes tie rod ends and ball joints at various plants for a number of vehicle makers, foreign and domestic, according to the Lemforder Web site.

Friday’s announcement that President Bush would pump $17.4 billion into GM and Chrysler in an attempt to bail them out is good news for auto parts makers, but there will be a lag in startup and hence orders, Johnson said.

This is not the first time that the company’s Brewer plant, which employs about 210 people, has experienced layoffs as a result of economic factors at the national level.

In March of this year, the plant had a “temporary volunteer layoff” that affected 10 workers, five fewer than the company initially anticipated.

Those layoffs were related to a strike by the United Auto Workers union against American Axle & Manufacturing Inc.

In October 2004, the Brewer plant laid off 18 employees because of a lag between contracts connected to one of its production lines. A weak national economy was cited as the reason.

The company’s work force at that time stood at about 315, according to published reports.

Located in the city’s East-West Industrial Park, the Brewer Lemforder plant was constructed in 1980. It was the first North American plant built by German-based ZF Lemforder.

The parent company operates 122 plants in 26 countries, with 23 in North America.

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