Alstom Power is furloughing for nearly a month most of its 335 workers at its Chattanooga boiler operation as the company consolidates operations in response to sluggish sales of its equipment.
As part of the same restructuring, the company also will cut five positions at its boiler service tubing distribution center in Chattanooga, said Alstom spokeswoman Fallon McLoughlin on Friday.
She said the moves will "enable Alstom to more efficiently provide customers with products and services that will improve their competitiveness." The furloughs will take place in March, she said.
Terry Bailey, shop chairman for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 656, said there has been a slow down in business and the company is "basically adjusting some man hours and doing financial adjustment."
He noted the Alstom boiler operation builds parts for the coal-fired power industry. The move away from coal toward other energy production "is costing a lot of jobs," Bailey said.
Since 2010, utilities have announced plans to shut down more than 150 U.S. coal plants, according to the Sierra Club. Proposed EPA restrictions on carbon emissions from new coal plants also have discouraged most utilities from building new coal plants.
The March employee furlough is the first of its kind at the Riverfront Parkway plant. Bailey said the union workers, which amount to about 173 people, won't be paid during the furlough. Some people at the facility can use vacation if they want, he said.
McLoughlin said Alstom is consolidating its boiler service centers in the U.S., which will lead to cutting 20 positions nationally and the five in Chattanooga.
The effort will include consolidating the service offerings of the Northeast Service Center in Harrisburg, Penn., the Southeast Service Center in Suwanne, Ga., and the Boiler Services Tubing Distribution Center in Chattanooga to three existing Alstom sites, she said.
Those locations are the Midwest Service Center in Erlanger, Ky.,, the Southwest Service Center in Tyler, Texas, and the Rocky Mountain Service Center in Denver, the spokeswoman said.
Alstom's Chattanooga operations have been hit by the downturn in the power industry over the past year.
Last July, Alstom announced it was laying off about 40 workers at the boiler facility based on market conditions.
Also, in March, Alstom's adjacent turbomachinery plant that opened in 2010 unveiled cuts of 80 jobs due to a lack of orders for nuclear power components.
A planned-for nuclear resurgence, which the 350,000-square-foot, $300 million plant was built to tap, has been slow to come about. Officials blamed the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power plant accident for helping dampen growth in the energy segment since then.
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