The union representing 250 machinists at Dresser-Rand in Wellsville have approved an extended contract that increases severance benefits as the plant prepares to close. It also has an updated timeline for layoffs.
Ron Warner, district representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told WBFO that parent company Siemens agreed to 5-6 months of additional severance - depending on seniority - than what is in the current bargaining agreement.
"They will also have fully paid medical by the company equal to their severance," Warner said. "The employees also received an immediate $2-an-hour wage increase and, for employees who'll be there after a year, there'll be a $1 increase."
Warner said the deal also pays union members in lieu of, but equal to, a two-year pension contribution.
Dresser-Rand has been a staple in the Wellsville community for more than 100 years, but Siemens announced in February it was selling its government business to Curtiss-Wright and moving the remaining jobs down South to North Carolina.
"Whoever owned them - Dresser-Rand, Turbodyne - they always made the company money. This company is very profitable in Wellsville. We were told that as early as last year," Warner said. "But this isn't about that. It's about the fact that business has slowed down. That brand-new factory in Charlotte has 25 percent of their employees - I've been told, I can't verify this - are laid off and they're looking to take all the work that they can down there to build that plant back up."
Warner said the company is planning layoffs to start in October.
"The company hasn't given us real defined timelines, but they are saying that they will be starting to reduce employees the beginning of their fiscal year, which actually begins October 1," Warner said. "So we're kind of anticipating we'll start to see some layoffs probably between October and, say, February and I think that we're gonna be down somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 or 70 once we get to February."
He said the contract for those remaining machinists was extended to July 2020, when the plant is expected to close for good. Those remaining union employees will be joined by Curtiss-Wright contract workers after February 2019 through closure.
The union last week tried a letter-writing campaign to save the plant from closing. Letters to President Trump, Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed (R-Olean) and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand expressed how employees are "devastated," as the plant has been "the lifeblood of this Western New York town for generations." Warner said there has been no response.
"It's definitely going to have a major impact on the local economy," Wellsville Supervisor Shad Alsworth told WBFO when the closing was announced. "There's not a whole lot of other options in the Wellsville vicinity for those people who are going to be displaced."
Alsworth said along with the loss of jobs, the closing is also going to hurt other local companies that supply the plant, as well as town finances.
"It's going to be an interesting road to hold for everybody in the town of Wellsville," Alsworth said. "We're certainly going to have to tighten our belts around Wellsville in hopes that we can stay competitive. We're just kind of hoping we can work together with Allegany County Industrial Development Agency and some other entities to try to spur some other kind of economic growth."
WBFO's Chris Caya contributed to this story.