Bus maker NFI to permanently lay off approximately 300 Winnipeg staff
Winnipeg-based bus manufacturer says thousands more workers to be impacted by 2-week idle period
Winnipeg-based bus manufacturer NFI Group Inc. will permanently lay off approximately 300 employees in the city as it struggles to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
NFI, the parent company of New Flyer, made the announcement in an update to investors Monday.
The company said the permanent layoffs in Winnipeg would occur at two other subsidiaries: Motor Coach Industries and Carfair, an NFI-owned parts manufacturer.
NFI Group employs more than 9,300 people in 50 different facilities in 10 different countries. Approximately 6,900 are in North America and 2,700 are in Manitoba.
The company joins a growing list of Winnipeg employers who have had to layoff staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NFI is also planning a two-week idle period for the majority of its facilities, which will impact about 6,500 employees starting next Monday or sooner.
During the period, employees will be asked to take vacation time or go on unpaid leave. The company's director of marketing and public affairs, Lindy Norris, said it wasn't known Tuesday how many employees would utilize their accrued vacation time.
She said some employees will continue to work because the company supports an essential transit service providing buses, parts, service, and support to transit operators around the world.
The company said as of Monday, the New Flyer bus manufacturing and parts fabrication facilities in Winnipeg, as well as the Motor Coach Industries plant in the city and the Carfair Composites facility here, will be idled.
"It is extremely painful to impact people's lives and livelihood and I assure you that we have not taken any decision lightly and that they have all been made in the context of balancing the interests of our stakeholders," NFI CEO Paul Soubry said in a statement to investors Monday.
"We have built this company with great people, and I am confident we can and will successfully navigate through this crisis."
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister commented on the layoffs Tuesday.
"I have tremendous respect for the management at [NFI] and Mr. Soubry has to make difficult decisions every day — so do I.
"I appreciated that he doesn't comment critically on my decisions when I make them and I'm going to make sure that I return the favour and not comment critically on the decisions that he has to make."
Mayor creates business task force
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman also weighed in on the NFI layoffs, meeting with a new business task force on Tuesday for the first time. He said he's grateful for new federal measures to help business and is having dialogue with the province about further relief that may be rolled out.
"We know that the impacts of COVID are having a horrible impact on our business community of all sizes."
The mayor's task force brings together small-, medium- and large-sized businesses along with Economic Development Winnipeg. The task force will meet via video conference in the coming weeks.
NFI Group said the majority of its companies' customers are public transit agencies or commercial operators providing public services.
The company said with the significant drop in private motorcoach operations in North America due to the pandemic, it expects the cancellation or deferral of many private customer orders.
- A previous version of this story said bus manufacturer New Flyer would permanently lay off nearly 300 Winnipeg staff members. In fact, it is New Flyer's parent company, NFI Group Inc., that is laying off about 300 Winnipeg employees at Motor Coach Industries and Carfair.Mar 24, 2020 5:11 PM CT
With files from Bartley Kives