Saturday, May 03, 2014

General Dynamics Worker Speaking Out

LYNN HAVEN - Hundreds of General Dynamics workers will be out of a job Friday. The company gave about 730 workers two months notice in late February. 

A General Dynamics worker who wants to remain anonymous said, "Once they sent that letter to people or gave it to people so many people quit, they had so many people just up and quit."

The single mother is one of the full-time employees losing her job. She claims during her orientation, General Dynamics managers said full-time workers would not be effected by future layoffs.

"I was like, 'So how did I still get a letter?' and he was like, 'Well, they can't determine how people were picked to get a letter they start with the temporary people first and then go on down the line.'" she recalled.

The woman has grown increasingly frustrated by the company the last 2 months.

She claims management offered workers a $500 bonus if they stayed through the May 2nd termination date. However, she says under the strict point system, it's practically impossible to receive the money.

"If you're five to 10 minutes late to work you still get a point. If you leave work early, you still get a point. They [points] add up so fast and you know you have to be on you P's and Q's," she said.

NewsChannel 7 tried to talk to General Dynamics about the layoffs. They did not return our calls, then threatened to have police remove us from public property while we were trying to talk to employees.

Walter Kelley, Lynn Haven Mayor said, "No one has called me and we have not been able to contact anyone."

Mayor Kelley admits the city welcomed the 1,400 new jobs general dynamics created last fall. However, he says these layoffs will strain the local economy.

"We are still going through some tough times and people are trying to really hard to move forward in. It's disturbing to me know that we are going to have that many people unemployed," he said.

The General Dynamics worker says, "I just hope it just goes away, General Dynamics goes away, because it really has affected a lot of people including myself."

Career Source Gulf Coast, who helped place all the workers with General Dynamics, will now be helping them find new jobs. 

Story and video:

Layoffs begin at General Dynamics 

LYNN HAVEN — Several hundred employees will be laid off from the General Dynamics call center in Lynn Haven in the coming week, according to a notice posted by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

General Dynamics opened the call center in October and notified the public of plans to lay off 726 employees in late February, as required under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act.

Under the WARN Act, an employer must provide at least a 60-day notice in advance of mass layoffs to all affected workers, the appropriate unit of local government and the state dislocated worker unit.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) contracted General Dynamics to open the call center at the old Sallie Mae building last October, where about 1,500 employees were recruited to answer questions regarding enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

General Dynamics will continue operations in Lynn Haven with about 360 employees, who will help assist consumers with ACA Marketplace questions and support, according to CMS.

Because the ACA’s open enrollment period was limited, officials with CMS, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said many of the jobs at the Lynn Haven call center were seasonal in nature.

General Dynamics has been quiet about the layoffs since February, refusing an offer from local workforce organization CareerSource Gulf Coast to assist displaced workers with re-employment.

 Maria Goodwin, director of workforce services for CareerSource Gulf Coast, said her organization received a stream of phone calls this week from those facing layoffs.

“Based on our phone calls, we believe their last day is today,” Goodwin said Friday. “Really they’re concerned on how they can file for unemployment and when they can file.”

Goodwin said that while CareerSource Gulf Coast hosted a series of job fairs to aid General Dynamics with hiring last year, the company was not interested in having a representative on-site to help employees facing layoffs.

“We were really involved when they were doing the recruiting and trying to hire people, but they’ve been really distant,” Goodwin said. “We haven’t really been involved since they announced the layoffs a couple of months ago.”

Goodwin said the organization also saw a stream of General Dynamics employees that quit following the layoff announcement, making them ineligible for state re-employment assistance.

Kim Bodine, executive director of CareerSource Gulf Coast, said that because the layoffs are occurring before the summer, there likely will be several businesses hiring in Panama City Beach.

“The good thing is that this is the time of year we have more jobs available, mostly in tourism,” Bodine said. “It’s not an exact crosswalk, although some of them can be.”

 Bodine said many of the call center employees hold skills necessary for the many clerical and administrative positions in the hospitality industry.

“It’s never a good thing to lose 700 jobs,” Bodine said. “It’s not a perfect situation, but if it has to happen, I’m glad it happened during this time of year.”