Move to New York comes shortly after approving millions in cash awards for several executives.
Briggs & Stratton announced Friday that it will cut 200 jobs at its Wauwatosa factory and headquarters at the end of August to move most production to Sherill, New York, the Milwaukee Business Journal reports.
The news comes as the company is facing allegations of unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. Last month, Mike Jackson, a 45-year-old father of eight, collapsed on the job and soon after died of the coronavirus because he was reportedly afraid to call in sick.
Although Briggs has provided no hazard pay or sick leave for its essential workers in the Wauwatosa factory, the company decided last month to skip a $6.7 million interest payment, restore its executive board members’ salaries after they were reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and give executives a combined $2.6 million in what the company is calling “awards.“
Employees who quarantine voluntarily or who test positive for COVID-19 are eligible for just $375 per week in short-term disability payments.
Workers have told UpNorthNews that the protections Briggs & Stratton have put into place — including providing some hand sanitizer, taping the floors to encourage social distancing, and installing some plastic barriers — are not adequate. Workers must still be on close-quarters assembly lines, and masks are not required, they say. The company did not respond to UpNorthNews about whether it would reconsider its policy of not requiring them, or whether it would consider providing hazard pay to employees.
“First we’re too essential to shut down for our protection, now our jobs are being sent away,” Chance Zombor, a grievance representative with the union that represents Briggs employees, tweeted Friday. “No money for paid sick leave, but plenty for bonuses for executives.”
A company spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday morning.
Zombor, in a subsequent tweet, said the affected employees will be laid off by August 28 and that temporary workers “will go first, then there will be bumping based on seniority, jobs, and labor grade.”
The Business Journal reports that manufacturing of lawn tractors, residential zero-turn mowers, snowblowers, and pressure washer products will be moved. Not all jobs will be restored, as just 125 will be added in New York, a company spokesman told the Business Journal.
The only products that Briggs will still manufacture in Wauwatosa are standby generators and engine components, according to the Business Journal.
The layoffs are part of Briggs’ “strategic repositioning plan” that it announced in March when the company said it would seek “a simpler organization through strategic divestitures, and a streamlined overall business to drive improved capital returns.”