PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- On Wednesday, Vestas laid off 450 workers from its Colorado manufacturing plants, including 120 workers from Pueblo.
The Chieftain, a KRDO news partner, reports the company laid off 15% of the workforce at the south Pueblo location. However, a relative of one affected worked contacted KRDO NewsChannel 13 Thursday to take issue with that figure.
"My (relative) told me that the layoffs are much larger than 15%," he explained. "Actually upwards of 50%. All of the people making $25 (hourly) or more are gone."
The man said that laid-off employees will receive a monthlong severance package and would jeopardize that if they talk publicly about the layoffs.
But after KRDO NewsChannel 13's 5 p.m. live report on the matter, Gerry Miller -- who said he's one of the laid-off employees -- consented to an interview.
"I've worked there almost five years as a welder," he said. "I found out last night while working the night shift. They pulled me out and pulled others out individually as the night went on. It didn't add up to me because there was no rhyme or reason for who they let go. I think there was favoritism involved. Mostly welders were laid off. I work hard, work well, have a clean record and still got fired."
Miller said he moved to Pueblo from Milwaukee to take the job, and hopes to remain in the area.
"I have a wife and two daughters," he said. "I think I'll be all right. The job was great but the company has seriously declined in the past few years. I went to a room, they gave me an envelope, cleaned out my locker and they escorted me out the door."
KRDO NewsChannel 13 contacted Vestas for more details Thursday and sent the company a list of questions. Vestas responded just before 7 p.m. Thursday:
1. How many employees are currently working at the Pueblo facility?
---- We don't disclose specific figures by factory but the reductions at the Pueblo Towers locations represent approximately 15% of the workforce.
2. 120 people are being laid-off, is that correct? If so, when do those layoffs take effect?
---- Yes, approximately 120 people are impacted at the Pueblo location, and that is effective immediately. Impacted employees are being offered severance packages.
3. What exactly do the employees manufacture there, or what are their job descriptions?
----- Vestas manufactures wind turbine tower sections at the Pueblo location.
4. What is the average salary for employees?
----We don't disclose that information.
5. What is Vestas doing to help the laid-off employees?
---- To protect jobs and ensure a continued strong Vestas footprint in Colorado, Vestas will support the impacted colleagues, pending eligibility, in transitioning to other roles in growing parts of the organization such as the Service business which supports the lifetime operations and maintenance of wind park assets. Impacted employees at Pueblo Towers not offered different positions are being offered severance packages.
6. Even though clean energy is supposed to be the wave of the future, there is now less demand for wind turbines. Also, that tax credits for renewable energy projects are expiring and making those projects more expensive. And that the pandemic may have an impact in this situation. Is any of that true? If so, is the market expected to improve in the near future?
----- It is true that near-term market demand is lower than the peak volumes seen in 2020, while demand for V136 blades is being replaced by other variants. Vestas is therefore consolidating its footprint in Colorado, USA, including discontinuing production at Brighton Blades, to reflect lower near-term market demand, strengthen our Service and Construction setup, and improve executional efficiency. The mechanics of the PTC phase-down caused a multi-year demand ramp up, which peaked with the 100% PTC expiration at the end of 2020, and this is impacting near-term market volumes as the post 2020 market adjusts to longer-term sustainable levels. With the consolidation, Vestas is supporting growing business segments and ensuring the foundation for efficient scale-up when demand increases again.
7. Is it possible that any of the laid-off employees may be hired back?
---- The USA remains one of the world’s largest markets for wind energy and by keeping three factories and a global tooling headquarters in Colorado, Vestas is ensuring a continued strong foundation in the USA that will enable future adjustments and efficient scale-up when demand increases again.
8. When did Vestas start in Pueblo?
---- Vestas began construction on the Pueblo factory in 2008. The facility shipped its first finished product in May 2010 via rail.
Chante Condit-Pottol, the director of marketing and communications for Vestas, told the Chieftain that the decision to consolidate its workforce reflects lower near-term market demand.
In total, Vestas laid off 120 workers at its Pueblo tower-manufacturing plant, 50 employees at its Windsor blade factor, and completely shut down its Brighton blade factory.
According to The Chieftain, Vestas is consolidating all blade production in Windsor and plans to repurpose the Brighton blade site into a North American headquarters for its Global Tooling business.
Jeff Shaw, executive director for the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, said that they plan on working with the laid-off employees to find new jobs.
"We're not a job placement agency, but we have relationships with other manufacturers," he said. "We'll reach out to them and find out who's hiring, hopefully give them some leads and point them in the right direction. The good news is that Vestas isn't leaving. We're hoping the layoffs will be temporary and those people will be rehired once the economy improves."
Displaced workers are encouraged to contact the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation office at (719)-544-2000.
Diana Esquibel, of the Pueblo Workforce Center, said that laid-off employees can qualify for additional benefits -- such as assistance with retraining and relocation -- under the federal Trade Adjustment Act.
For more information, affected workers should call (719)-562-3731 and leave a message that the workforce will return.