Winnebago Industries President and CEO Michael Happe sought to clarify on Friday afternoon published reports earlier in the day of workforce layoffs and reduced hours at the company’s manufacturing facility in Forest City.
Happe told RVBUSINESS.com that earlier this week 25 employees in two different departments in the manufacturing operations were notified they would receive a four-week layoff as part of a production-related adjustment.
“So they are temporary layoffs, if that’s the right term, and it’s what I would term just a workforce pacing adjustment that, in most manufacturing organizations, happens from time to time in certain departments as we try to match the timing of their areas to the timing of the rest of the company or market,” Happe said.
“So we made that decision earlier this week,” he continued, “and that became visible apparently, so we just want to be very honest about it. It’s not a large amount of employees and certainly our intention is to have them return here in several weeks when their areas need their services.”
The issue was first made public by the Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa, which cited unnamed employees in a Feb. 16 report that they had been informed of layoffs and reduced hours at the plant.
Happe pointed to Winnebago’s nearly 4,000 employees across facilities in Indiana, Iowa, Oregon and Minnesota, and mentioned that at any one time there are multiple open positions posted on the company’s online job board. Winnebago doesn’t issue a press release when 25 people are hired or are asked to work overtime, he said, so likewise it doesn’t feel compelled to do so when 25 people receive a temporary layoff.
“There’s a lot of ebb and flows that aren’t disclosed publicly. I don’t want to diminish it, but it’s not a large-scale permanent action. It’s one that we made in those departments for a pretty legitimate short-term reason, and that’s what it is,” Happe said.
He said the “short-term labor adjustments” could be attributed to the company continually seeking to identify and leverage efficiency and productivity opportunities. This includes constantly evaluating the total workforce, salaried and non-salaried, to make sure they operate in a “safe work environment where people are challenged to use their talents and skills to the best of their abilities.”
“We’re going to challenge people to be highly productive and work for continuous improvement every day, and we’re going to look to drive the business forward at more competitive and higher levels with a similar amount of resources in the future,” Happe said. “We’re challenging a lot of different areas and departments in the company these days on how they can be a more efficient, and how we can add more value to our consumers and our dealers.
“Whether they’re short-term, or we structurally do some different things, we are going to look for opportunities to be more efficient everywhere we can,” he continued. “So, again, this is one action, but if you pull the telescope out we are still very optimistic about our future. We have almost 4,000 employees every day trying to drive things productively forward for Winnebago Industries.”