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Layoffs begin locally: White-collar reductions impact headquarters' staff

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Layoff notices were delivered to some members of the professional staff at Columbus-based Cummins Inc. this week, affecting white-collar workers in the engine maker’s corporate headquarters for the first time since a move to trim the global workforce was announced five weeks ago.

“These things are literally happening department by department as the company works through projects and priorities,” Jon Mills, Cummins director of external communications, said Tuesday.

He said Cummins employees should know the full extent of the layoffs and who is affected by mid-December. Mills said there would not be external announcements each time a reduction is made.

Cummins announced Oct. 9 that it would trim 1,000 to 1,500 jobs by year’s end from its 47,000-member worldwide workforce to cope with weaker-than-expected sales and a slowdown in the world economy. The timing of that workforce announcement coincided with a revised sales forecast of $17 billion for the year, which is $1 billion lower than what was estimated in July.

Then on Oct. 17, the engine maker specified that about 150 workers — at least one-tenth of the total global workforce reduction — would be laid off from among its three southern Indiana plants, the Fuel Systems Plant in Columbus, the Columbus MidRange Engine Plant and the Seymour Engine plant. As part of that announcement, Cummins said it also expected 126 workers would be transferred to the MidRange Engine Plant.

Cummins currently has about 7,700 employees in southern Indiana.

Carole Casto, executive director of corporate communications, confirmed that two employees in communications were told this week that they’ll lose their jobs because the projects they’ve been doing won’t be funded in 2013. Severance packages for professional employees generally are related to salary levels and length of service, she added.

“Approximately 3 percent of our global workforce will be affected, including office, professional, shop, temporary and full-time employees,” Mills said.

The cuts will affect not only manufacturing jobs, but departments such as business services, information technology, human resources, corporate communications, legal, corporate responsibility and finance, Mills said Tuesday.

“Basically, it encompasses all departments that support the business. Again, determinations are ongoing and reductions will continue globally over approximately the next four weeks and reductions all will have taken effect by the end of the year,” he said.

“These actions are difficult and will impact a number of people who have worked for Cummins for many years but are necessary to respond to the current deteriorating global economic conditions and ensure the long-term success of Cummins,” Mills said as part of the Oct. 17 announcement.

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