BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Stellantis announced they won’t be closing their Belvidere plant, but keeping it idle on February 28th.

This came as a shock to the more than 14 hundred employees that will be getting laid off. in the recent bargaining agreement between the union and company, it was put in place that the plant couldn’t officially close.

“Now that they’ve made an official announcement that they are essentially going to idle us which is an easier way of saying close because of the collective bargaining agreement they can’t close us during the terms of this agreement,” said Timothy Ferguson the Belvidere Shop Chairman.

While the plant had been slowing down as of late due to low product, they recently began working on the newest version of the Cherokee. That will now be moved to Mexico to be worked on.

“I want to make sure the narrative is there and everyone knows that the current vehicle that we are building the next generation of it will be built in Mexico and they are idling us,” Ferguson said.

Stellantis blamed increasing costs related to the electrification of the automotive market. They also said the COVID-19 pandemic and microchip shortage played a factor. Stellantis said that they are working on a way to repurpose the Belvidere facility, but no additional details have been shared.

Local state senator Steve Stadelman sponsored the “reimagining electric vehicle act” in Springfield. Its aim is to recruit E-V Manufacturers and suppliers to Illinois and provide incentives for companies like Stellantis to retool and stay in the state.

“Stellantis’ announcement is difficult news for the Rockford region, but discussions between the state and the company continue to find a future product and identify opportunities to repurpose the plant,” Stadelman said.

The United Autoworker’s Union said in a Facebook post that they are deeply angered about Friday’s announcement.

“Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761,” The Union said.

Stellantis said they hope to relocate all indefinitely laid-off employees to other plants like Detroit, Ohio, and Virginia.

Mayor of Rockford, Tom McNamara tweeted that he is ready to work with Belvidere on the next course of action. I reached out to the mayor of Belvidere, Clinton Morris, and had not heard back.