Volvo Plant to Lay Off 400 More Workers

Volvo Trucks North America will lay off 400 more workers this month in response to a stubbornly sluggish heavy truck market, a company official said Friday.

The layoffs will take place Feb. 26. Both salaried and hourly workers will be affected, Volvo spokesman Keith Brandis said.

The company has already laid off nearly 1,100 workers during the last year.

Bill Burton, president of United Auto Workers Local 2069, said the union was notified of the layoffs late Thursday, but the number of cuts wasn’t announced.

“I think older workers who have seen it before were expecting it,” Burton said. “The younger ones were hoping our down weeks would save them from layoffs.”


Intermet Misses Deadline for Response to Settlement Proposal

The New River Foundry’s parent company missed Friday’s deadline to respond to a proposed settlement of an $801,000 fine levied by the state after a Radford plant explosion killed three workers in March.

The Department of Labor and Industry will ask Michigan-based Intermet Corp. for an answer, spokeswoman Nancy Jakubec said Monday.

Debbie Sheppard, Karen Anderson Hamilton and Curtis Grooms died in the March 5 explosion that investigators said originated in the plant’s basement.

In September, Intermet was fined $801,000 for 31 safety violations investigators uncovered following the explosion at the New River Castings plant, now called the New River Foundry. The fine was the largest levied in the history of the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Compliance division.

Intermet contested the fine and last met with the state on Sept. 21, Kelly said.

The settlement agreement was offered by the state on Nov. 15, but the two sides haven’t met to discuss it.


He’s the Ruler of the Cage

Two hours before the Rutgers University game, Virginia Tech equipment manager Lester Karlin hears it’s cool outside. He knows what’s coming. He begrudgingly pulls out a bundle of long-sleeve T-shirts. Karlin is certain some players, particularly the defensive backs, will want the shirts under their game jerseys instead of the customary sleeveless variety.

Ten minutes later, a player stands at the equipment room window and requests a long-sleeve shirt.

“All right,” Karlin says, “give me your short one.”

The player rolls his eyes as he trudges back across the hall to the locker room to retrieve his T-shirt. Players get one of everything, Karlin explains. If they want a replacement, they have to return the old one.

“Otherwise, they take the shirt home,” he says disapprovingly.

They can’t do that. The uniforms may have players names and numbers on them, but make no mistake – they’re Karlin’s.

Union Says Volvo Plans More Layoffs

A union leader at the Volvo Trucks North America plant in Dublin said Saturday that the company is planning another round of layoffs, but Volvo said it has no such plans.

Volvo Trucks, based in Greensboro, N.C., is the New River Valley’s second-largest employer with 2,300 workers.

Lee Thomas, bargaining chairman at United Auto Workers Local 2069, said the company notified the union Thursday that an unspecified number of workers would be laid off because of a decrease in truck orders.

However, Volvo spokesman Phil Romba said, “There are no plans at this point to make changes in production.”

Romba said he had no idea how the rumor got started.

Sister Foundry Cited After Radford Blast

State labor officials investigated safety violations at the Radford Foundry twice within weeks after three workers died in an explosion at the foundry’s sister plant.

The state fined the foundry a total $ 4,000 on the two citations issued by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Occupational Safety and Health Compliance division.

The first citation stemmed from an unspecified violation March 23 involving cranes in the plant. A March 28 drill press accident in which a worker lost a finger prompted the second investigation, according to documents released this week by the state.

They both came after the March 5 gas explosion at the adjacent New River Castings plant killed three workers, injured several others and put hundreds out of work. Both plants are owned by Michigan-based Intermet Corp.

The state initially fined the Radford Foundry $1,875 for the crane citation, but reached a settlement of $ 937.50 with the company.



Workers at Celco OK 3-Year Pact

Celanese Acetate’s unionized workers accepted a new three-year contract Friday that was the third proposed by the company since June.

The new pact will give workers 3 percent annual pay increases. They also will get $4 more in monthly pension payments for each year of service, said Jim Mullins, president of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees Local 2024.

The contract, which was approved on a 446-313 vote during two days of polling, goes into effect Sunday. The contract was the third considered by the union during five months of negotiations that sometimes turned contentious and prompted union leaders to threaten to strike three times during the last two months.

Unlike the first two proposals, the new pact was unanimously endorsed by the union’s seven-member negotiating committee.

“After five and a half months, it’s a relief to have it one way or the other,” Mullins said after the vote.

Celanese, Union Reach Pact

Celanese Acetate reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with its union workers Wednesday, five weeks after the previous contract had expired, a company official said.

The proposed pact must now be voted upon by members of the Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees. The union and the company started negotiating for a new contract four months ago.

John McQuail, the Narrows plant’s director of human resources, said he is optimistic union members will ratify the proposed contract, which he called a “fair, competitive offer.”

“We’re looking forward to the vote and hope the vote is positive so that we can move forward,” he said.

However, details of the proposal, or a date for the vote weren’t available Thursday.


Work Ethic Pays Off for Computer Jock

Elliot Turner jumped right into the work force after graduating from Blacksburg High School in 1997, opting against college.

He didn’t have to find a job, he had already created one.

Turner started MimeStar Inc., a software development company, during his junior year of high school.

Since graduating, he has worked 60 hours a week out of his Blacksburg apartment developing computer software to catch hackers trying to tap into computer networks.

Turner cashed in on his long hours Wednesday. Inc. of Richardson, Texas, purchased MimeStar for $4 million, plus $1.1 million in Intrusion stock.


Union Leaders at Volvo Are Challenged Over Concessions in Contract

The United Auto Workers local in Dublin accepted major concessions in a new contract with Volvo Trucks North America last year after the company threatened to move jobs to Mexico. Then the union dealt with 900 layoffs months later.

Now top union leaders face a challenge from within.

Two of the plant’s 12 bargaining committee members have filed a federal complaint that alleges UAW Local 2069 President Bill Burton and Bargaining Chairman Lee Thomas agreed to mandatory overtime and the end of a 15-minute paid cleanup time without putting the concessions to a membership vote.

Burton and Thomas made the changes in May despite a rejection by the shop stewards who form the union’s bargaining committee, according to Thomas F. White and Jim Houchins, both 12-year plant veterans.

Only 30 percent of the plant’s union workers know about the changes, White said.

“These people pay their dues to be represented,” he said. Burton and Thomas “violated their rights by not giving them the opportunity to voice their opinion by voting.”


Search for 2 Workers Continues

A day of waiting ended without answers Monday as searchers were unable to find two women missing after Sunday’s deadly explosion at the New River Castings plant.

Officials also continued to search for the cause of the blast, with union officials charging that Intermet Corp., the Troy, Mich.-based owner of the automobile parts maker, ignored complaints about gas leaks.

Search dogs indicated that Debbie Sheppard, 37, of Riner, and Karen Anderson Hamilton, 35, of Plum Creek probably were buried beneath rubble that officials said would take days to clear.

Radford Fire Chief Lee Simpkins said the workers apparently are under a “four-story building collapsed into two stories,” but said he still hoped they were alive. Commercial Steel Erection, a Madison Heights company, is being called in to help remove tons of debris during an around-the-clock recovery effort, Simpkins said.