Monday, December 15th, 2008
By Janie Southard
Local jobs lost to Mexico
Kongsberg Automotive closing Van Wert plant; 105 positions relocating
  A Van Wert plant whose union employees have been locked out for the past eight months will close this summer and take all production to Mexico - a move predicted months ago by union officials.
Kongsberg Automotive on Saturday announced it will move production to the company's Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, facility this summer.
The Van Wert area will lose another 105 jobs in the move, which adds to the county's jobless number that topped 10 percent in October. Van Wert County has the third highest unemployment rate in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The Norwegian company also has said it will transfer production from its Haysville, Kan., facility to its Matamoros, Mexico, plant. Haysville also will close this summer taking 100 jobs from that area.
"After dealing with this company ... I think their intention has always been to move the work out of the country," Mark Shaw, Ohio district contract coordinator for United Steelworkers of America, told The Daily Standard in the spring just following the Van Wert lockout.
Shaw also observed at that time the company was moving operations out of Mexico to China.
"These people have no allegiance anywhere except to money," he had said.
Kongsberg, a Norwegian company, paid $560 million in December 2007 to purchase the former Teleflex company in Van Wert where a number of former Huffy employees were working following Huffy's move from Celina.
Along with purchasing the company, Kongsberg bought the union contract, which contained no successorship language and expired two months later. (Successorship language provides that a union company cannot be sold unless the buyer negotiates a new contract with the union.) Shortly thereafter, the local Steelworkers were locked out when they turned thumbs down on the new company-proposed contract by a vote of 303-9.
The company had replacement workers already on the job the night (April 2) the contract was nixed.
Several attempts by the union to negotiate better terms were turned down by company officials. As well, efforts by state officials and even a trip to Kongsberg headquarters in Norway by local officials and union officers did not sway the company from its position.
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