Oshkosh Defense laying off 760 workers

OSHKOSH – Oshkosh Defense is laying off approximately 760 workers starting this summer.

The company says approximately 700 hourly positions will be cut starting in June. In addition, approximately 60 salaried positions will be eliminated starting in July with the majority of those being temporary workers and retiring employees. Who exactly will lose their jobs hasn’t been decided at this point.

The union, the UAW Local 578, didn’t find out about the scope of the layoffs until about 12:30 Thursday afternoon. Members tell us the sheer numbers are a shock.

“The announcement is just absolutely horrible and us, as concerned members of the community, you know, we take this really to heart,” said union president Joe Preisler.

The company says it needs to scale back because of military spending cuts.

“It’s a difficult decision for Oshkosh, but one we had to make as a result of tight government budgets and a return to peacetime operations,” said Oshkosh Defense Vice President of Human Resources Rod Wedemeier.

A FOX 11 Fact Check shows there are four large military contracts between Oshkosh Corporation and the U.S. Defense Department. The contracts, worth more than $113 million, are expected to wind down in the next five months.

Oshkosh Defense says it’s tried to look for business elsewhere, including foreign contracts.

Preisler, however, says more can be done.

“We have people that are skilled to be able to do more than defense work. So that’s why we’re going to continue to work with the company to bring as much work in house as we can to save jobs,” Preisler explained.

Employees went through a similar situation last summer. Oshkosh Defense laid off 900 workers then.

“As you’ve seen in the past, we aligned our workforce with the spending by our customers and we’ll continue to monitor our workforce needs by our customer’s demands,” Wedemeier explained.

After the layoffs, Oshkosh Defense will employ approximately 1,850 employees in Oshkosh.

The union and Oshkosh Defense say they will work to help relocate those displaced workers.

The company and union employees negotiated a contract extension this fall to help a bid for a $13 billion military contract.

Oshkosh Defense says that contract won’t be awarded until late 2015, and the company will still be prepared to handle it if chosen.

Oshkosh Defense currently makes up slightly more than 20 percent of Oshkosh Corporation’s 12,000 employees worldwide.

Digging deeper and looking at long-term deals, we found a more than $192 million military contract that runs through May 2018. That deal through the Navy is for aircraft firefighting vehicles.

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