Schenectady City Council member among GE layoffs
Erikson hopeful of landing new position within company
SCHENECTADY City Councilman Carl Erikson has become a statistic: He was one of about 100 local General Electric workers to be laid off this month.
There is a silver lining: The cut is about half as many people as originally estimated when the layoffs in GE's Power & Water Division were announced in October, GE spokeswoman Christine Horne said.
“Even though the number of people affected is substantially less than originally anticipated, we still recognize the impact it has on those people, their families and the community,” she added. “These are very difficult decisions, but are necessary for GE Power & Water to reduce costs and remain competitive in a very challenging global industry.”
Erikson seemed to take the news in stride.
“These kinds of things happen as companies reshuffle to remain profitable,” he said. “I understand why they’re doing it. My hopes are to find another position within GE.”
Despite the layoff notices, all of the employees are still being paid. Each worker was given a period of time as an “active employee,” in which their only job is to find a new job. They are receiving full pay during that period, which varies depending on the number of years the employee has been with the company.
The typical employee has four to eight weeks of “active” pay, Horne said. During that time, GE officials assist them in finding a new job. After their active pay runs out, they will get severance pay for a predetermined number of weeks, she said.
Erikson said he has until February to find a new job. He’s hoping for a position within the company. For many people, that has already happened; Horne said about 100 people in the division found other GE jobs.
“That list would have been a larger list of people,” she said. “Of those roughly 200 people [initially expected to be laid off], many found other jobs at GE.”
Erikson declined some jobs that required a transfer. Erikson, of course, can’t keep his council seat if he must move out of the area.
He’s not dismayed by the situation. He has worked at the company since 1999. He was most recently a manager working on sales contracts. But for years he handled procurement, in which he worked to get GE the cheapest prices for its materials.
He’s used those same skills to try to improve Schenectady’s purchasing, demanding the city seek out more bidders and write broader bid specifications so more suppliers can bid.
While GE is trying to reduce its costs in the Power & Water Division, it is hiring in other local divisions. Those include health care, global research and several corporate management fields — benefits, licensing and other functions, Horne said.
Power & Water costs are being scrutinized as the company encounters competition from Siemens for its turbines. When GE moved the division headquarters to Schenectady last year, it announced it had cut “a layer” of management to reduce costs. But even so, the company narrowly won a major contract for steam turbines and generators in Algeria this fall.
Since then, Siemens has cut staff, and GE quickly followed suit.
The company said it is not cutting its hourly production employees in Schenectady. Those jobs have been growing since 2011, Horne said. The cuts are only for white-collar workers.