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Mercury Marine To Close OK Plant After WI Union Agreement

Tue, 09/08/2009 - 4:29am

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — After Wisconsin workers agreed to concessions, Mercury Marine said it will move work there from Oklahoma within two years, putting 380 employees in Stillwater out of work.

The boat engine maker pitted its manufacturing plants in Stillwater and Fond du Lac, Wis., against each other, saying it would consolidate the plants but hadn't decided where.

When a union representing workers at the Wisconsin plant agreed last week to wage and benefit concessions, the company announced that plant would remain open.

On Friday, Mercury Marine said it would take 18 to 24 months to complete the Stillwater layoff.

"Eventually we'll close the Stillwater facility," Mercury Marine spokesman Steve Fleming said.

Company President Mark Schwabero said the consolidation needed after major declines in the recreational boating industry.

"As we've stated throughout this important process, comprehensive changes to wages, benefits and operational flexibility are necessary for Mercury to effectively compete in a smaller and fundamentally changed marketplace," he said.

State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, worked with state officials to put together a tax-incentive package to entice Mercury Marine to stay.

"This went down to a corporation trying to get concessions out of a union, and I think they leveraged another community to do so," Williams said.

The average wage for a union worker at the Fond du Lac plant was $20 an hour, while nonunion workers in Stillwater averaged $17 an hour, Fleming said.

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. last year orchestrated a competition among four communities where it had factories, saying it would close one of the plants. After receiving union concessions, the company kept open plants at Texarkana, Ark., Tupelo, Miss., and at its home base of Findlay, Ohio. Cooper Tire closed a plant in Albany, Ga.

Mercury Marine will start moving some work, including jobs in casting and machining, from Stillwater to Fond du Lac immediately, Fleming said.

The company hasn't decided yet when it will start issuing layoff notices in Stillwater. He said the closure of the Stillwater facility likely will come after the 24-month transition.

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