Joy Global is discontinuing its heavy fabrication and welding departments in Milwaukee in an effort to bring its operations and costs in line with current and anticipated demand from the mining industry.
The decision eliminates the positions of approximately 130 employees, although most were already laid off in 2015. The company is offering severance packages or bargained benefits as applicable, according to a statement issued in conjunction with sending official notice to the state.
“It just seems to be an ongoing thing,” said Ross Winklbauer, United Steelworkers sub-district director. “I just remember a few years back where all these companies were trying to find welders, now that we got them they’re turning around and laying them all off.”
The company said functions previously handled by the heavy fabrication and welding department will be covered by other Joy Global manufacturing and service facilities and alliance partners. The departments were located at the company’s headquarters at 4400 W. National Ave.
Winklbauer said the company indicated demand would have to increase dramatically before any of the positions would potentially be brought back.
"The way mining is going right now, we don't see that happening in the next I don't know how many years," he said.
The decision is the second major blow to the Milwaukee area’s mining equipment workforce this month. Caterpillar announced last week it will move engineering jobs from South Milwaukee to Arizona as part of a new centralized hub. The company said manufacturing operations continue at the facility.
Winklbauer, who represents unions at both Caterpillar and Joy Global, said production is still taking place at both facilities, but he isn’t encouraged by the fact that the Caterpillar engineering jobs are leaving. He said both decisions have a trickle-down effect to suppliers and the broader community.
“Nobody wants to spend money because they’re afraid they’re going to be losing their job,” he said.
Joy Global still has about 900 employees in the Milwaukee area, with a workforce at its surface mining headquarters, corporate headquarters and distribution center.
The company said in March it is aiming to realize $100 million in cost reductions, up from a previously announced $85 million.