EBENSBURG – Gamesa, a Spain-based wind turbine manufacturing company, issued what it hopes are only temporary furloughs to 73 employees at its Cambria Township plant on Monday.
The United Steelworkers of America Local 2635 members received 60 days’ notice.
David Rosenberg, Gamesa’s vice president of marketing and communications, said that most optimistically, the layoffs could end just 10 weeks after they begin in early September.
An expected downturn in the need for blades necessitated the move. Currently, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, which provides an incentive of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced from utility-scale wind turbines, is set to expire at the end of 2012. Without the credit in place, the building of domestic windmills will drop off dramatically next year.
“There’s no point in making something nobody is going to be using,” said USW representative Rob Witherell.
The state Department of Labor and Industry wants to contact employees soon to help them deal with issues arising from their furloughs, including how to collect unemployment.
“We just try to get in there as quickly as possible,” said Sara Goulet, press secretary for Labor and Industry.
This is the plant’s second large furloughing of workers in recent years. Gamesa temporarily laid off 79 workers in late 2009 when the recession decreased demand for its products. The company was able to bring back those employees thanks to an infusion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
“We’re in a capitalistic society, and things like this happen,” said Cambria County Commissioner Doug Lengenfelder. “We’d certainly like to keep all the businesses we can.”
With domestic wind farm production stalled because of the pending tax credit expiration, the local Gamesa plant, which opened in 2006, will focus on making blades for export. Approximately 70 percent of Gamesa’s current work force will remain after the furloughs start.
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