Chrysler's Belvidere plant to lay off 1,096 workers


"I wasn't too happy about it. I have to take care of my family but what can you do?" Autoworkers at Chrysler's assembly plant in Belvidere are reacting to news of the layoffs. More than 1,000 workers will lose their jobs in the next few weeks.

The job cuts are part of a larger move by Chrysler to offset sagging sales. The plant is located east of Rockford.

Three vehicles are assembled at the plant, the Dodge Caliber, the Jeep Compass and the Jeep Patriot. About 3,400 people work there, almost one-third of them are going to lose their jobs because of slow sales and competition from foreign automakers. ABC7 spoke with some of them Thursday afternoon. They say morale at the plant is at an all-time low.

"Nobody wants to lose their jobs. Everybody got bills to pay, kids to take care of and mortgage to pay. A bad deal, you know. But it was in the forecast," said Rock Rutledge, worker.

One-thousand-ninety-six workers at the Belvidere assembly plant will have to find another job at the end of next month. They are all members of UAW Local 1268. About 600 of them, including Randy Hess, are two year temp workers hired in 2006.

"It didn't surprise me. They're going to cut costs wherever they can, no matter what, to increase the value of the company," said Hess.

Currently, there are three shifts at the plant. Chrysler announced that the third shift, which starts at midnight, will be cut.

"You get attached to these people and they're looking forward to getting on full-time like anyone else would. And here they are facing layoffs," said Nancy Taylor.

Nancy Taylor works the third shift, but she gets to keep her job. She says some of her friends at the plant who are losing their jobs moved here from all over the country.

"I understand ones from New York didn't get their seniority, so they're part of the layoff this time. What are they going to do?" said Taylor.

"They came from Indiana, Michigan. You know, all over. Wherever there's plants that closed. It's heartbreaking," said Anita Hurley.

A spokeswoman for Chrysler released a statement Thursday which reads in part: "The action is a direct result of the tough economic environment and a response to the market."

As far as buyouts or retirement incentives are concerned, workers say they don't have enough information.

"We aren't getting details anywhere from any source. So nothing official from anyone. The union or the company," said Rich Edwards.

No one from the union was available for an interview Thursday. ABC7's phone calls were not returned.

Across North America, layoffs will affect five Chrysler assembly plants, including the one in Belvidere. About 12,000 workers will lose their jobs. That's about 15 percent of the company's work force.

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