Union letter: Freightliner adding second shift

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CLEVELAND — The company that owns Freightliner is planning to announce the return of a full second shift at its truck building plant here, according to a letter sent out to union members.
Daimler Trucks North America said today it plans a “major announcement”?at the plant Thursday morning. Roger Nielsen, chief operating officer of Daimler Trucks North America, will be joined by Gov. Beverly Perdue and other officials.
The advisory gave no details about the announcement.
Town officials in Cleveland said they received invitations to the event, but have been given no details about the announcement. Commissioner Mary Frank Fleming-Adkins said she’s heard it’s about jobs.
“It’s only going to be a good thing, from what I?understand,” she said.
According to a letter to union members signed by United Auto Workers Local 3520 President Corey Hill, the company plans to “start ramping up production to a full second shift”?at the Cleveland plant by mid-February. 
The company then plans to increase production to 150 trucks a day by the fourth quarter of this year, the letter said. If that projection becomes reality, “we will exhaust our current recall list,”?bringing laid-off employees back to work, the letter said.
Robert Van Geons, executive director of RowanWorks Economic Development, said his agency and the N.C. Department of Commerce have been working with Daimler. He declined to divulge details of the announcement, however.
“Let’s just say, from what I’ve heard, it would be a very positive thing for our community,” he said.
A Daimler spokeswoman did not return a telephone call or email from the Post today.
Layoffs in 2007 and 2008 decimated the workforce at Cleveland’s Freightliner plant, which once employed 4,000 people and manufactured 220 trucks per day.
Employment fell to 695 workers, and production bottomed out at 32 trucks per day. Rowan County and the town of Cleveland gave Freightliner economic incentives in 2009 to protect the remaining jobs and begin production of military vehicles.
When Nielsen came to Cleveland in April 2011 to promote a solar farm installed at the plant by Duke Energy, employment had gone back up to about 1,100.  
Nielsen announced then that the company would be recalling an additional 225 workers previously laid off at the plant and might restore a second shift there if market conditions continued to improve.
“There is a strong customer need for trucks,” Nielsen said in April.
Hill, president of UAW Local 3520, said the company had been ramping up production and recalling workers throughout 2011. Employment at the plant is up to about 1,500 now, he said.
“We’ve been gradually growing throughout the whole year,”?he said. “Not anything major, but it’s been steady; our orders and production have steadily gone up.”
Hill said he sees “pretty good growth for 2012” and while he declined Wednesday to discuss the planned announcement, he said it’s “going to be good news.”
The company has been adding jobs elsewhere as well.
In June, the company added nearly 700 manufacturing jobs at its Mount Holly and Gastonia plants. That included a second shift in Mount Holly and meant the company had recalled most of the laid-off workers at those plants, the Gaston Gazette reported.
The announcement in Cleveland is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday.  
Freightliner Trucks is the largest division of Daimler Trucks North America, which is headquartered in Portland, Ore.