Roughly 200 more people are out of work today after Vestas officials trimmed their oldest Colorado blade plant in Windsor, resulting in an almost 20 percent reduction in the company’s Colorado workforce from the beginning of the year.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Vestas officials said they were down to 1,200 employees statewide compared to the 1,500 they started the week with. This week alone, roughly 270 employees were cut from the Brighton and Windsor plants, said Andrew Longeteig, Vestas spokesman.
“Overall, about 18 percent of Vestas’ entire Colorado manufacturing workforce was affected this week at its two blade factories,” according to the statement. “In 2012, Vestas’ manufacturing workforce in Colorado has decreased from more than 1,700 to about 1,200 people at four factories, which includes attrition, relocations and reductions.”
Employees were called to the Windsor plant at 6 a.m. Thursday, where they were met with extra security in the parking lot. Their security badges that allowed them in the building didn’t work, said one employee, who survived the cuts and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Employees knew it was coming after company officials let go of about 80 employees Tuesday at its Brighton blade factory, just two months after the company announced it had to lay off 3,700 employees worldwide — about 1,400 more than they had anticipated in the spring. The Brighton layoffs represented about 30 percent of the workforce there; the Windsor layoffs represented a 29 percent reduction.
“It’s sad to walk away from some of those folks. It just didn’t make any sense,” the Windsor employee said. “They admitted it wasn’t going to make any sense.”
Employees were packed into the building’s canteen area and all were given packets with colors. Company manager Hans Jesperson called the meeting and read a prepared statement.
“It was pretty surreal,” the employee said. “I would probably guess there were in excess of 200 people in the canteen. When Hans asked everyone to leave the canteen orderly, people weren’t even talking, it was so quiet. At that point, nobody knew,” the employee said.
Employees were corralled in various meeting rooms to hear the news. Those with blue or green envelopes were let go, and the remaining employees were immediately asked to go home and return Friday.
“Even up in the individual meeting room where I was, there was very little conversation. There were some pretty sad folks once they figured out who was staying and who was going,” the employee said.
Those who were retained were told to leave for the day and return today. Those who were let go had to stay, the employee said.
“They announced the folks who were going to stay (at the plant), they were going to talk about the severance, the Cobra insurance, and they had information about filing for unemployment and job search information,” said the employee. “I was home by 7.”
The employee, however, said it wasn’t immediately apparent to anyone that this would be the end of it, given Vestas’ continued struggles with orders, which have essentially ground to a halt in the United States. Vestas has blamed the U.S. slowdown on uncertainty in Congress renewing the Wind Production Tax Credit, which expires at the end of the year. The credit essentially acts as a subsidy to keep the industry afloat.
“In fact, this could just be round one,” the employee stated. “This might not be all. They said we ‘hope’ to keep this many people, the net people who were going to be left. We all know what happened in Brighton, at first let off 10, then 30, then it was 80.”
Vestas began trimming earlier in the year at its Pueblo tower factory and some from Brighton, in which about 120 people lost their jobs. In the past week, they consolidated all of three of their U.S. research and development firms in the Brighton blade and nacelle factories; then laid off about 80 from the Brighton blade factory. On Thursday in Windsor, at the company’s first American manufacturing plant, an estimated 200 were dismissed. Vestas officials have not given exact numbers, but stated many positions also have been lost through attrition. The Windsor employee said he’s watched employees leave and not be replaced for the last several months.
Vestas officials in their statement said they were committed to their presence in Colorado.
“Vestas made a big investment in Colorado to establish a regional manufacturing presence that created many American jobs during an economic recession,” according to the statement. “Vestas’ four Colorado factories will continue to manufacture wind turbine components for the U.S. market, as well as export to Canada and Latin America.”
The company still has cuts to make worldwide, however.
“Overall, the company reduced its workforce in the U.S. and Canada by about 20 percent in 2012 — from more than 3,400 employees to about 2,600 today,” according to the statement. “Affected positions in 2012 include those in manufacturing, sales, service, supply chain, and research and development.”
Windsor Mayor John Vasquez did not return calls this week for comment about the layoffs.