BARTON — FreightCar America announced Monday the layoff of 145 workers at its plant in the Barton Riverfront Industrial Park, but officials said they hope this is a temporary measure.
FreightCar officials said their goal is to rehire those positions within the next six months. They would like to recall those affected by the layoff as production demands increase.
"Unfortunately, we had to make the decision," said David Benson, vice president of Human Resources at the plant. "We believe it will be temporary. We hope we have the opportunity to hire all these employees back and more."
Benson said as of now there are no additional layoffs planned.
"I would hope that in less than six months we'll have all of these people back, some much sooner than that," Benson said.
He said an additional 33 workers were let go near the end of 2018, but those were temporary positions.
With the layoffs, there are some 650 employees remaining at the plant, Benson said.
He said the company has been making progress in measurable indicators, including quality and safety.
"We really have made a lot of progress in trying to improve our situation," Benson said. "Despite all that, we really have more manpower than we do work."
In February, FreightCar entered into an agreement with Navistar Inc. to acquire all of Navistar's operating assets at Barton.
Navistar had been leasing the plant from the Retirement Systems of Alabama since 2012, and FreightCar subleased a portion of it a year later. Together, the companies produced a variety of rail cars.
"We remain committed to the Shoals and this facility and community," Benson said. "We expect to invest in this facility and its capabilities this year. As we do that, we'll have even more opportunity to maintain a stable workforce."
National Steel Car officials announced in 2007 plans to build the National Alabama rail car plant at the Barton facility.
Soon, however, problems surfaced.
The national economic downturn delayed production of the railcars. By 2009, RSA provided a $275 million loan to assist the company. That was on top of the $350 million the agency put into the program in 2007.
RSA took over ownership of the plant in 2011 and leased it to Navistar.