500 Erie GE Jobs Gone One Year After Texas Plans Announced - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

500 Erie GE Jobs Gone One Year After Texas Plans Announced

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It has been exactly one year since GE Transportation announced plans to transfer the work of 1,050 employees to Texas. Many jobs have left, but fears the Erie plant would close were unfounded.

On April 9, 2013, the announcement came as a real blow to GE workers and the community. GE has long been the county's largest employer, with jobs that pay well and feed related manufacturing businesses.

Union members rallied and engaged in weeks of "decision bargaining" to try and keep the work here. The company sought concessions.  In the end though, UE 506 held firm to a labor agreement that lasts through June 2015 and the company rolled forward with its plans.

Now some of the company's locomotive and OHV wheel drive production is taking place at the GE Manufacturing Solutions plant in Fort Worth.   Even so, with over 45 hundred employees, Erie GE is still the largest plant in its transportation business, and the company has invested millions over the past year in updating Erie's facilities.

Company spokeswoman, Ann Miller told us that currently, much attention is focused on the  important design, engineering work and testing on GE's Tier 4 locomotive, all of which takes place in Erie.  Because it's the locomotive that meets the new national emissions standards, GE Transportation officials consider it the future, along with a dual fuel locomotive also in design and development here.

GE confirms that one year since the announcement of the transfer of work, about 500 Erie jobs have been eliminated, that number includes about 50 early retirements.   Barbara Chaffee, Executive Director of The Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership confirms, that's not as many as anticipated, not yet.  "To my knowledge not at this point, my understanding is they will probably continue to go forward, particularly when you look at this landscape, it's not just competition from Caterpillar, but China is advancing rapidly as a competitor, so the point is to be as competitive as possible in this marketplace."

China in partnership with Bombardier snagged half of a new South African locomotive order. But Erie GE will produce the first 6 locomotives, and all the engines will be made at the nearby Grove City plant.

Company officials told 12News/SEENews that the transfer of work will continue through 2015. The did not say if the cuts will reach that original projection of 1,050.  The current UE 506 labor contract expires in June of 2015.  Both the company and Regional Chamber say GE and the union have worked together on the work force rules and regulations over the past year and have agreed on some initiatives that benefit the entire plant. 

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