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Volvo Trucks to Increase Production at Dublin, Va., Plant
June 23, 2004
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From The Roanoke Times

DUBLIN, Va. -- Volvo Trucks North America will again ramp up production in August at its Dublin truck plant, and could hire as many as 300 new workers.

The plant will increase production on its Mack Truck assembly line to 60 trucks a day, up from its current rate of 36 a day. Its Volvo truck line will increase to 120 trucks a day, up from 112. Though company officials would not discuss how many jobs the ramp-up would create, United Auto Workers Local 2069 President Charlie Barbettini said it generally takes 10 to 12 workers per truck produced. Volvo recalled almost 400 additional workers this spring when it added a second shift on its Volvo line and increased production by about 40 trucks a day.

The plant currently employs 2,600 people with an average pay of $19 an hour.

With its spring ramp-up, Volvo completed the recall of almost 1,600 workers laid off in 2000 during a market slump.

Those workers came from a list maintained by United Auto Workers Local 2069, which represents about 98 percent of the plant's workers. Any hiring done to meet the August production increase will be totally new hires, Volvo spokesman Jim McNamara said Monday.

New hires begin at $13.80 an hour, according to Barbettini.

"This is a great opportunity to put a lot more local people to work and improve their standard of living," he said.

At least 30 of the new hires could be former workers from Intermet Corp.'s Radford foundry. The foundry last fall laid off slightly more than 400 people when it closed the older of its two plants in Radford. The Radford office of the Virginia Employment Commission applied for and has received a $180,000 Rapid Response grant from the state Workforce Investment Act fund, according to Karen Akers, a caseworker at the Radford VEC office.

The office has signed contracts with three New River Valley employers, including Volvo. Through the program, the local Workforce Investment Board will pay half of the salary of qualifying workers for up to three months, Akers explained. The grant money applies specifically to former foundry workers affected by the plant closing.

"The idea is to keep as many of these dislocated workers in the New River Valley as we can," she said. "A lot have already gotten other jobs, but for those who haven't, their unemployment is running out."

Employment at the Dublin Volvo plant has picked up steadily since spring 2003, when it added its Mack assembly line and began to see the overall over-the-road truck market improve. Last December, it announced a deal with Arizona-based Swift Transportation Co. to produce 4,000 Volvo trucks over two years.

Its year-to-date truck deliveries are up 47 percent over the same time last year, McNamara said. And the company's percentage of the North American retail truck market is now 9.1 percent, up from 7.5 percent in 2002.

"There are many factors behind the increase in demand, but this is a cyclical business," McNamara said. "We forecast this trend to continue for at least another two to three years."

Barbettini said the ramp-up and new jobs -- and potential new union members -- would likely give Local 2029 more bargaining leverage when the union begins negotiating a new contract in January.

"There's strength in numbers," Barbettini said. "We already had a lot of the new hires asking to join the union right off the bat."

Copyright 2004 The Roanoke Times, Va. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. All Rights Reserved.

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