Honda photo

Honda lays off full-time Ohio workers for first time since ’79

The COVID-19 emergency has forced Honda to do something it has never done in Ohio: temporarily lay off full-time employees.

In response to questions from the Dayton Daily News, a Honda spokesman Tuesday confirmed that while workers continue to receive benefits, the automaker has had to implement what it calls “No Work Available” days.

That means Honda’s 8,000 production employees in Ohio aren’t being paid beyond company benefits. The company is one of the Dayton and Springfield area’s largest employers.

“These unprecedented circumstances require that we take some difficult actions in order to cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Honda spokesman Chris Abbruzzese said in an email.

“This includes temporarily implementing No Work Available (NWA) days during the continued production suspension in our plants,” he added.

Honda employees have been told they can apply for state and federal unemployment benefits.

John Heitmann, a University of Dayton historian recognized nationally as an authority on automotive history, agreed the moment is historic.

“Honda knows things you and I don’t know about the global market,” Heitmann said. “This decision they’ve made is because they need to save Honda.”

“This is a crisis like no other,” Abbruzzese said. “Never have we witnessed the world economy coming to a halt. Without market demand, we cannot continue to make vehicles. These unprecedented circumstances require that we take some unprecedented actions.”

When the COVID-19 lockdowns end, it’s unclear what the “new normal” will be, said Heitmann, a UD professor emeritus, who also edits the Automotive History Review, a scholarly review by the Society of Automotive Historians.

“If there is an automobile age, it has come to an end right now,” he said.

Stay-at-home edicts and closed businesses across the nation and much of the globe have frozen automobile purchases. And assembly plants across the continent have been shut down.

“There really is no need for automobiles right now because with lockdowns across the globe, hardly anyone is driving right now,” Heitmann said.

On Monday, Honda extended its production suspension announced for all U.S. and Canadian plants through May 1. Honda began that suspension March 23.

Added Abbruzzese: “All Honda associates will continue to receive their Honda benefits during this time.”

Part-time and contract employees are being told to contact their agencies concerning compensation, he also said.

The fact that Honda had never laid off full-time production workers since the Japan-based company began making motorcycles in Ohio in 1979 had long been a point of pride for the company, setting it apart from other automakers. Honda officials have long said the automaker did not lay off full-time workers in the Buckeye State in the Great Recession of 2008 or previous economic contractions.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Honda will stop paying furloughed workers at all of its 10 factories in the U.S.

Those affected won’t receive salaries from April 13 to May 1, making them eligible to get unemployment benefits from local authorities, Teruhiko Tatebe, a Honda spokesman, told the news service.

 
Honda of America workers at the automaker’s East Liberty plant. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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