The showroom at Sea Ray of Knoxville in 2004. Brunswick manufactures boats for Sea Ray.
By Roger Harris
Struggling boatmaker Brunswick Corp. said today it will temporarily suspend production at three manufacturing plants in the Knoxville area beginning the week of Oct. 27, furloughing workers through the end of they year.
The company also plans to cut 1,400 additional jobs and is closing plants in Minnesota, Oregon and Washington. A plant in Navassa, N.C., will be mothballed and could be reopened should consumer demand for Brunswick boats improve, company spokesman Dan Kubera said.
Brunswick said the cuts will save $300 million by the end of 2009.
Brunswick’s two Sea Ray plants in East Knoxville and one in Vonore employ about 1,800 people. Only workers directly involved in the manufacture of fiberglass boats will be furloughed. Nonproduction employees such as administration, marketing and customer service, will continue to work while production is suspended, Kubera said.
The Knoxville plants are scheduled to reopen in January, Kubera said.
Details are not final, but the company plans to help the furloughed workers while the plants are closed, Kubera said.
“We want to do as much as we can to help the folks through the end of the year,” Kubera said. “They’re good workers and we want to make sure they’re coming back in January.”
This is the second time this year Brunswick has suspended production and furloughed workers at the Knoxville plants. The plants were idle for the month of July.
During previous furloughs the company has done such things as continuing to provide medical benefits and allowing employees to take paid vacation, Kubera said.
The plant closings were announced earlier this year and were originally scheduled to take place in early 2009. However, the rapid decline in consumer demand forced the company to accelerate its time line. Kubera said.
“We are living and working in the most turbulent economic times in recent history,” Brunswick Chairman and CEO Dustan E. McCoy said in a statement. “From the start of the year, we’ve experienced a 3,500-point drop in the Dow, mortgage and housing crises, record prices for oil, and, now, shrinking credit availability for companies and individuals. The poor economy and the accompanying weak consumer sentiment have pressured marine markets, eroding the demand for boats and engines these past few months at a swifter pace than originally anticipated.”