Manufacturers and workers suffer from the impact of COVID-19 orders
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
News 12 at 11 o'clock/NBC at 12
AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) – Thousands of people are being affected by shutdowns at manufacturing plants in the CSRA.
The usual roar of the Bridgestone and Parkdale Mills plants is now quiet, as thousands of good-paying jobs sit in limbo.
Many businesses around Aiken County are suffering the effects of coronavirus safety orders.
“I was just more worried about like how my bills were gonna get paid kind of thing,” one contractor said.
This man, who requested to remain anonymous, has been working as a contractor at Bridgestone for a few years. But, instead of going to work this morning, he went to the unemployment office.
“People think that 'oh, they are doing this to think about themselves.' No, they are thinking about their workers," he said.
He says it's a necessary step to keep the more than 2,000 workers at the two Bridgestone facilities healthy and safe.
But, hundreds of others at Parkdale Mills and Textron in Augusta are facing this too.
Will Williams of the Aiken Economic Development Partnership says the area economy is going to take a hit.
“With so much closed at this time, it's hard to really quantify what that impact is gonna be,” he said. “I think the most exciting thing is our manufacturers are doing everything they can to stay operational.”
If the shutdowns last longer than expected, everyone in Aiken County could feel the impacts.
“It ripples out into the community, and the longer this goes on it's not just like dropping a pebble into the pond but dropping a big boulder,” Williams said.
The best case scenario: the plants reopen or continue operating, according to the Aiken Economic Development Partnership.
Parkdale Mills could reopen later this week, Williams says.
Textron is only on a partial shutdown and will continue benefits during the furlough.
Bridgestone says they are trying to meet the needs of their workers as best as they can.
Other manufacturers are preparing plans to send to the government so that facilities can remain open. Some are even hiring and expanding to help meet the needs brought about by the coronavirus.
"We are utilizing a variety of means to ensure our employees’ needs are met during this unprecedented time, including but not limited to supplemental unemployment benefits, unemployment benefits and direct compensation when ineligible for other benefits."
"I cannot provide specific numbers on how many employees are impacted by the furlough, or its length. I do want to clarify that this action is not a complete shutdown of our operations in Augusta . We still have employees coming to work each day, and are still manufacturing and shipping products.
For those employees who are furloughed, we have taken measures to lessen the impact of the furlough as much as possible. We are continuing benefits, including health care benefits, for furloughed employees through the furlough period. In accordance with the guidance provided by the Georgia Department of Labor, we are also assisting in filing unemployment claims for furloughed workers at our Augusta facilities.
In addition to the measures above, we are also taking additional steps to protect the health of our employees who continue to work, including increased cleaning and sanitization of our facilities, and implementation of work-from-home protocols for employees who can perform their duties remotely."