Nissan workers take buyout offers at tennessee plants

775 Nissan Workers Take Buyout Offers at 2 Tennessee Plants

The Nissan North America, Inc. earlier announced the successful results of its Voluntary Transition Program, which is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the company’s powertrain and product lines’ manufacturing operations in Smyrna and in Decherd, Tennessee.

The automaker said that 775 of its total number of employees accepted buyouts at two of its factories in Tennessee. At the Smyrna factory, 681 employees decided to accept buyouts. At Decherd, there are 94 workers who decided to take advantage of the program. Retirements accounted for 303 of the combined numbers.

The voluntary offers, which include a $45,000 lump-sum payment plus $500 for each year of service and retirement benefits in some cases, were made last month to 6,200 production and maintenance technicians. When the company announced the offer, the automaker said that it expected at least 300 workers to accept because that was the number eligible for retirement.

The Japanese automaker said it offered the buyouts because of higher demand for passenger cars, such as the Altima, combined with lower demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles. That has then resulted in a manufacturing mix less labor-intensive to build and requiring fewer assembly workers.

On February 20, Nissan offered workers the opportunity to separate from the company with a lump sum payment, and for those who qualified, retirement benefits to hourly production and maintenance technicians at the two manufacturing plants.

“This program has resulted in tangible benefits for employees and the company,” said Dan Gaudette, the senior vice president of North American Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management. “Each person is unique, but several employees have already told us the program will allow them to return to school full-time, to start up businesses they have dreamed about or to start enjoying their retirement. It was the right program at the right time.”

The Voluntary Transition Program of the automaker was primarily designed to achieve stability in staffing levels with assembly requirements. The program takes into account production mix and productivity gains. It is only offered to employees at Nissan’s Smyrna and Decherd plants. Employees at other Nissan operations in Tennessee are unaffected.

Nissan spokesman Fred Standish said the company does not have plans at this point to hire more employees for the plants. “The total number is good for us,” Standish said. “We can continue producing.”

The Smyrna plant is building the Nissan Altima and Maxima, Frontier, Xterra and the Pathfinder vehicles. The plant is responsible for the meticulous integration of auto parts like the Nissan grille, fenders, radiators and car equipments. The Decherd powertrain facility, on the other hand, manufactures all engines for Nissan and Infiniti vehicles built in the United States. Nissan headquarters, which has recently moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, employs 5,200 hourly employees in Smyrna. In Decherd, about 1,000 people work at the company’s plant.

The last time the company has downsized its staff in Tennessee was in 1998, when Nissan offered a pension enhancement to hourly employees. Sixty-six out of 146 of those eligible for the offer accepted it.

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