John Deere Layoffs: Company speaks - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

John Deere Layoffs: Company speaks

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Ken Golden, global spokesman for Deere and Company Ken Golden, global spokesman for Deere and Company
WATERLOO (KWWL) - Ken Golden, director of global public relations with Deere and Company, spoke with KWWL Friday after an announcement came down regarding several hundred layoffs within the company -- including 565 in Waterloo alone.

Golden said, before today, approximately 3,400 employees worked in manufacturing within John Deere facilities in Waterloo.

On how employees were told of the layoffs Friday:

"What we try to do is get to as many of our employees ahead of the announcement, starting on third shift. (The timing) depends on what factory -- multiple locations have different shifts, different systems. But it started from about 3 a.m. on. Some have mid-shift meetings, some were at the end shift meetings. We communicate as quickly as we can.

"These announcements are never easy, but we have to remain committed to balancing sales and the need for products. But we know our families are affected."

On what the employees were told, and how they reacted:

"I wasn't at any of the meetings. What employees did know is what we announced in November. What we announced in November was that sales in agricultural and turf equipment would be considerably down. Farm machinery would decrease by 25-30 percent this year. As that happens, we have to make adjustments."

On who was affected and why:

"Three facilities were impacted in Waterloo. What happened in Waterloo was 90 were laid off at the foundry, 385 at the tractor factory and 90 at engine works. All of these factories result in a product -- the foundry makes castings, the tractor factory builds.... As we reduce the number of tractors we can sell, we have to balance."

On why the layoffs happened:

"We went through three record years. The farm economy is based more on commodity prices, and farmers are facing a different scenario than three years ago. As commodity prices go down, they decide to invest differently in products and equipment and farm machinery. We had a long run on a positive side, and it's now a negative."

On how these layoffs won't be like the 1980s in Waterloo:

"It's very different than the 1980s. In the 1980s, what happened was the farm equipment companies continued to build, even as there wasn't a market for them. As we saw an increase, we added jobs; now we're seeing a decrease, and taking jobs away. The company is still in a good position. We are reducing, and it's never easy to reduce."

On whether laid-off workers can apply within John Deere in other locations:

"When we have an opportunity, people do have options to come to other factories. Two hundred and twenty jobs have been filled in our construction and forestry division, and almost all of those jobs went to another John Deere employee affected by the August announcement -- something like 210 of the 220 jobs. So when we have an increase in the construction and forestry business, we look for people that already have experience.

"Clearly, we hope we can find an increase in the marketplace. But right now, what we said in November was significant.

"With manufacturing jobs, we find them to be transferable because we have certain systems in place that our employees are aware of and know, so they know how to do manufacturing work (already). We're finding (transferring them) to be a very positive experience."

On whether there will be job fairs or other help from John Deere:

"I'm not aware at the local level. We do an awful lot, but I don't have the details. We have certain contractual arrangements with the UAW (to run job fairs and employee assistance). For the most part, we ask that you talk to the UAW about what happens to employees. We made an agreement that we won't speak about it."

Read more about the layoffs here:
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