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Hundreds to lose jobs in Honeywell cutback
By Andrew Haeg
Minnesota Public Radio
May 15, 2002


Honeywell plans to lay off as many as 900 Minnesota workers as it closes four of its Twin Cities advanced circuits facilities. The cuts will end Honeywell's advanced circuits business in Minnesota. The company says an industry-wide crisis is forcing it to reduce capacity.

Effective immediately, Honeywell is closing its advanced circuits plant in Buffalo, Minnesota and laying off the factory's 200 workers. The plant manufactures electronic circuit boards used in such things as cell phones.

Another 550 people will likely lose their jobs when the company closes another advanced circuits plant in Roseville. Add to that another 150 administrative jobs that will disappear as the company closes facilities in both Hopkins and Minnetonka.

Honeywell's advanced circuits plant in Chippewa Falls, Wisc., will continue to employ all 900 of its workers. After these cuts, Honeywell will employ some 5,400 people in Minnesota.

Honeywell spokesman Dan Harrison says the electronics industry is in desperate conditions, and the company needed to close these facilities.

"The industry environment has affected the business and we had to make these decisions. And unfortunately any time you make decisions that affect people's jobs, it's a difficult decision. But it's a decision we have to make for the health of the company going forward," he said.

Workers at the advanced circuits plant in Roseville have been bracing for bad news for some time. Since December 2000, the major customers for electronic circuits, like Motorola, have been slashing their spending on new equipment. Honeywell's Harrison says sales of electronic circuits industry-wide dropped 50 percent last year.

Keith Schmalzbauer is president of the United Steelworkers of America Local 9444, which represents the 550 workers at the Roseville plant.

"The electronic industry has been in the worst crisis it's ever been in. And what's the future, and when that turnaround comes it was always going to be tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes," he said.

Schmalzbauer says the plant has been meeting its production targets, but, because prices were so low, the plant was hemorrhaging money. He says it couldn't go on forever.

"Something was going to have to happen. You cannot take and bleed $15 to $18 million losses a quarter, for quarter after quarter after quarter. And that's what was happening," according to Schmalzbauer.

Honeywell says its union contract requires the company to discuss plant closures with the unions before they become official, but Schmalzbauer admits there's not much the union can do.

"We will obviously meet with the company. But it sounds like it's a done deal so I'm not too sure what the purpose of the meeting might be," he said.

Honeywell says the closures at he Roseville plant and the facilities in Hopkins and Minnetonka will take place by the end of June.