USA - Gibbs bids to reduce work force

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Faced with a continued slowdown in the U.S. auto industry, Gibbs Die Casting Corp. is offering severance incentives for certain types of employees willing to voluntarily leave the company.

It also plans to slash its number of temp workers.

The auto parts maker is offering the package to what it calls its "indirect" employees, which include people in administrative, support, corporate officer and corporate maintenance positions, human resources manager Debby Alexander said.

Voluntary departures could reduce the need for involuntary layoffs of people in those positions.

"Depending on the number of volunteers, we'll determine whether we need to take further action," Alexander said.

It wasn't clear how many people Gibbs hopes to shave from its payroll. "We don't have a target," she said.

The severance incentives aren't being offered to "direct" employees, such as casters, machine operators and employees at its Comac division, she said.

Gibbs employs more than 1,000 at its Henderson plant and headquarters, including temporary employees, according to Alexander.

"I see a significant drop in the temporary (employee) numbers," she said.

However, Alexander said reports in the community that Gibbs is closing its Mag plant are inaccurate.

"Absolutely not," she said. "We're not closing and we're not for sale."

She also denied that U.S. production is being shifted to Gibbs' overseas plants in Brazil, Hungary, Korea and China.

Offering voluntary separation packages is the latest in a series of steps Gibbs has taken in response to a loss of market share by U.S.-based automakers and what Alexander described as "the continued weakening of the North American auto market."

The company closed its Power Train plant here in 2005 and closed its Consolidated Federal plant here in 2007. The company insisted each time that no full-time Gibbs employees would lose their jobs, although 63 temporary employees were let go after last year's closing of a plant..

In December, the company announced it was closing its only other U.S. plant, in Harlingen, Texas, because of "the declining market share of traditional U.S. auto makers and the downturn of North American auto sales." Alexander said that resulted in about 50 new positions at the Henderson complex of plants.

Gibbs produces, machines and assembles aluminum and magnesium die-cast components, primarily for the worldwide automotive industry. Its products range from steering wheels to engine parts.