BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Several thousand employees at one of the area’s largest employers were offered severance packages on Tuesday.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Belvidere Fiat Chrysler Assembly Plant announcing another production shut down in February.
“With nearly three quarters of the employment of the Belvidere plant coming from Winnebago County, when FCA flinches in the slightest, we certainly pay attention,” said Nathan Bryant, President and CEO of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC).
Bryant says RAEDC expected this.
“The 3,900 separation agreements that have gone out to the hourly employees of the plant were part of the UAW contract that was finalized last year. So it was anticipated that this was going to happen, and certainly not a surprise,” he said.
Bryant says people aren’t buying cars like they used to, which could impact business at the plant.
“We’ll see a little bit of a slow down in comparison to what it might have been 3 or 4 years ago, but that’s nationally and across all automotive sectors. It’s just part of the ebb and flow of the business.”
The plant is the largest employer in Boone County. Any big changes could be devastating to the local economy.
“If the Chrysler Plant would close, or if it would decrease a shift, that would impact our sales tax revenue and our income tax revenue stream, which makes up 31% of our county’s income,” said Boone County Board Member Bernard O’Malley.
But, Bryant says that isn’t happening any time soon.
“In the finalization of the UAW contract last year, there was a provision it it that required that plant to be open for the next four years,” he said. “So from that standpoint, it was not an overly big concern.”
Bryant thinks the two severance packages offered by the company could lead to a second chance for workers who’ve lost their jobs.
“What this does offer the opportunity for is for those that are currently on the layoff that happened last year, to backfill that talent back into the plant,” he said.
Fiat Chrysler America says employees have until March 11th to make a decision on the offer.
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