Alstom furloughs 255 workers - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Alstom furloughs 255 workers

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One Chattanooga employer is furloughing hundreds of workers. Alstom has notified the majority of its workers in the boiler operations plant, not to come in for most of March.

The boiler plant on Riverfront Parkway has been there for decades, and changed ownership a few times before Alstom took it over, in addition to building a turbo-machinery plant next door.

The hundreds of boilmakers being furloughed next month mostly retrofit equipment for the coal-fired power industry. It's an industry that's been on the decline the last few years. The question is, what's that mean for these workers long-term?

"There's been a clear shift away from coal-fired production for power generation and Alstom is experiencing this interruption in their normal flow of business," Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce VP of Marketing J.Ed Marston said.

Alstom is divided into different sectors. Right now it's the boiler operations taking a hit. Most Chattanooga workers won't bring home pay checks through most of March with 255 furloughed and 80 staying on the job.

"Alstom is adjusting its Boiler Service Centers in the U.S. to better align with customer demand and enable Alstom to more efficiently provide customers with products and services that will improve their competitiveness," Alstom Media Relations Officer Fallon McLoughlin said.

Stated more simply-- their equipment isn't selling like it used to.

"The current administration in Washington D.C. seems to be strongly in opposition to continued heavy reliance in the U.S. on coal," UTC Economics Professor Dr. Bruce Hutchinson said.

Dr. Hutchinson says Capitol Hill is more focused on developing alternative natural gas resources.

"Through the regulatory process they're making it increasingly costly to continue generating electricity energy from coal," he said.

And now Chattanooga is seeing the impact through these Alstom boilmaker furloughs. They are back on the job March 31st, but local economic experts are curious to see if Alstom's adjustments will be enough to keep them on the job long-term.

"Our local economy is intimately committed with our global economy. There may be a situation where these or other workers are going to have to take their skill sets they have and apply them to other industries," Marston said.

Again, Alstom's boiler workshop is separate from its turbo-machinery plant. That side has also seen a shift in demand and laid off workers last Spring.

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