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AHF announces layoffs, furloughs

Union official says he’s worried layoff procedure not being done properly

The Inter-Mountain file photo The AHF hardwood flooring plant in Beverly announced temporary furloughs and layoffs affecting 215 employees Wednesday.

BEVERLY — The AHF hardwood flooring plant in Beverly announced temporary furloughs and layoffs affecting 215 employees Wednesday, including some of the company’s union employees, who have been working without a contract since Feb. 23.

“Supervisors, salaried operators, and maintenance and support staff are being fully or partially furloughed. Unionized employees are being laid off according to the provisions of their most recent collective bargaining agreement,” an AHF press release stated Wednesday.

“The past several weeks have been like no other that we have experienced in our lifetime,” Beverly plant manager Blaine Emery stated in the release. “The current pandemic situation has impacted hardwood flooring demand significantly, and as a result, has forced AHF to reassess its workforce needs.

“We understand the impact these layoffs will have on the families of those affected and look forward to getting people back to work as soon as we can.”

The company noted the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its business, but stressed that it has been designated as an essential business by both the state and federal governments.

“Although it is experiencing a drop in demand for hardwood flooring, AHF Products is essential to its critical infrastructure customers and the wood products supply chain as a whole,” the release states. “AHF Products is therefore designated as an essential business in every state in which it operates, as well as under the guidance provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security.”

The Beverly plant’s union employees have been working without a contract since Feb. 23, when 93% of them voted against AHF’s proposed contract renewal. The plant employs approximately 500 local residents.

Contract negotiations were scheduled to take place in March but were pushed back and have yet to occur.

Luke Farley with Teamsters Local 175, the union group representing a majority of AHF employees, told The Inter-Mountain Wednesday that union officials are concerned about the layoffs.

“I was informed late last evening of the layoffs,” Farley said Wednesday. “It seems needless.

“If the company had reached out to the union ahead of time, options could have been discussed. Unfortunately, we were given no opportunity or input.”

Farley said “about 190-195 (of those laid off by the plant) are union employees” but “there are still some union employees that haven’t been laid off.”

He said it was his understanding that the plant’s first shift is still operating, but the third shift is not.

Farley noted he believes the employees were not given adequate notice of the layoffs.

“I’m concerned that without notifying employees or reaching out to employees, that the company will be unable to property administer the layoff procedure,” he said.

“The union is investigating whether this is a violation of the WARN Act,” Farley said. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act helps ensure advance notice in cases of qualified plant closings and mass layoffs.

“The union has sent a request to negotiate about the layoffs but the company has so far refused to negotiate and is proceeding with its plan,” he said, adding, “The union will be requesting that the employees have health insurance.”

Farley said he is concerned that AHF may have been motivated to institute the layoffs because the laid-off union employees’ health insurance will not continue. Farley said he was notified by the company that the laid-off employees have the option to obtain COBRA coverage.

“If that’s the reason for all this, to save money on the health insurance costs, it’s disgusting,” Farley said. “This is a company that has received millions of dollars in taxpayer money, including for the new addition finished last year.”

AHF, a subsidiary of American Industrial Partners, purchased the plant from Armstrong Flooring in 2018 before expanding on the existing building.

In November 2019, AHF Products held a ribbon cutting to honor the new 85,000-square foot expansion to the Beverly plant, which was expected to add up to 50 new jobs within the facility.

Wednesday’s AHF press release also stated, “The company has previously made significant efforts to reduce spending on capital initiatives, and additional cost-savings measures include suspension of the company’s 401(k) match, pay reductions for those employees that are not being furloughed and a company-wide hiring freeze.”

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