Wabash National won’t recall 790 workers-WEB ONLY

Wabash National Corp. has told nearly 800 workers who were laid off over the winter that it does not expect to recall them.

The Lafayette-based truck-trailer manufacturer notified the Indiana Department of Workforce Development of the decision on Friday, saying the decision was prompted by declining demand projections for new trailers.

The economic slowdown also was cited by Great Dane Trailers as it laid off 43 workers at its plant in the western Indiana city of Brazil.

Wabash National laid off the 790 workers after extending its traditional Christmas production shutdown until early February. The company had said it expected to recall the workers before the end of June.

Company officials said in letters to employees and the state agency that analysts expect that new trailer demand for 2009 will be about 60 percent less than had been projected last year.

“Industry analysts have continued to lower 2009 projections and the orders we reasonably anticipated have not yet materialized,” Wabash president and CEO Richard Giromini wrote to state officials. “We can no longer provide our laid-off associates firm return to work dates.”

The layoffs leave Wabash National with about 2,000 employees in Lafayette.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said informing the employees of their status was the best thing to do under the circumstances.

“They wanted to give the employees a realistic picture of the situation,” Roswarski said. “That way, if job opportunities arise, they will not hesitate to pursue them.”

Lafayette has another large job loss in manufacturing approaching as Caterpillar Inc. in March notified 439 employees at its large engine factory of layoffs effective May 29.

Great Dane, meanwhile, described the layoffs at its Brazil plant as temporary. Company vice president Brandie Fuller said the plant about 15 miles east of Terre Haute still has 610 employees making refrigerated and dry freight trailers.

Fuller said that when business picks up, the company intends to bring the 43 laid-off employees “back to work as quickly as possible.”

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