Doosan Bobcat official says decision to temporarily suspend production not in response to union safety concerns
WEST FARGO, N.D. — Doosan Bobcat will shut down its production facilities until April 20 in response to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to company officials.
The shutdown, which will begin April 6 for its North Dakota and Minnesota production facilities, is slated to end April 20.
Stacey Breuer, Doosan Bobcat's director of corporate communication and public affairs office, said the Bobcat Co. headquarters in West Fargo will not be affected because it is not a production facility and employs office personnel only.
Breuer said North Dakota has three production facilities, with a total of 2,200 employees who will be affected by the shutdown, and Minnesota has one facility with 100 employees.
Affected employees will not be paid during the shutdown, but will be eligible to file for unemployment. Breuer added that Minnesota has waived the one-week waiting period to file unemployment claims, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum also waived the waiting period Wednesday, April 1.
Bobcat officials will update its employees and the public if the shutdown lingers on past April 20, Breuer said.
William Wilkinson, president of the United Steelworkers Local 560, representing 1,350 Bobcat employees in the region, said he doesn't think the shutdown was influenced by recent concerns by employees of the coronavirus spreading in Bobcat's Gwinner facility.
"I think that they knew that that was coming," Wilkinson said of the layoffs, "and, speculating, that's probably why they were dragging their feet on the bargaining., because it would make it easier if they went into a shutdown."
Fears of virus spread led to negotiations by union reps with corporate management aimed at setting up safeguards inside the manufacturing plant. Those negotiations have now stalled, and they contained some key elements, Wilkinson said.
"We did ask for 96 hours of pandemic leave," he said, "but that was just nothing that they were interested in doing."
Officials for Bobcat, however, maintain they have put a variety of safety practices in place due to the pandemic, including preventive measures such as travel restrictions, remote working where possible, social distancing practices, increased cleaning and disinfecting of facilities, limited visitor access and other necessary steps, all of which remain in effect.
According to Breuer, the Gwinner dust-up had nothing to do with Bobcat's decision to suspend operations.
"The COVID-19 situation is a complex situation, so there's a variety of factors that went into the decision," Breuer said.
She also pointed out that the suspension impacts production facilities in multiple states.
"It's beyond Gwinner," she said.
The company is closely monitoring inventory levels, according to officials, though the supply of available products is adequate to meet current orders and market demand. Doosan Bobcat will also continue to provide support and services to meet the needs of dealers and customers during this temporary suspension of production.
Doosan Bobcat specializes in the engineering, manufacturing, and marketing of compact construction equipment, generators, air compressors, lighting systems, light compaction equipment and attachments.