Officials and Orion employees alike shocked by end of production


ORISKANY, N.Y. (WKTV) - It was another blow to the local economy, as close to 500 workers at Orion Bus in Oriskany were told Wednesday that production would stop in one year.

Effective Wednesday, the company will no longer accept new bus orders as Daimler, the company that owns Orion, says the transit bus business is likely to remain depressed over the next several years.

The Oriskany facility will, however, stay open for parts and service.

Employees found out Wednesday morning and were sent home, with pay so that they could talk with their families. Daimler officials say all workers will be offered severance packages.

Last year, Orion avoided the layoffs by shifting its production schedule and moving operations to every other week. The employees were not paid for the weeks off, but they did keep their jobs.

The head of Daimler buses says the company considered all possible options for reconfiguring operations this time around.

"At the end of the day, Orion is facing a situation where the cost position is not competitive, the local market is in a continued slump, and growth opportunities are not available from selling the products overseas. Discontinuing production at Orion buses was a very difficult decision for us to make," said Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses

The mood was sad and somber Wednesday as the hundreds of employees were told the news, and learned they could soon be without jobs. Employees that spoke with NEWSchannel 2 said they found out about the announcement and then were sent home with pay for the day in order to give them time to process the information.

One man came out of one of the buildings at Orion with his head down, shoulders slumped over, looking absolutely devastated.

While he, like many other employees, did not wish to speak on camera, he said he was shocked to learn the news. He's an engineer and said he believes he will be one of the first to go.

Many of the employees working at Orion have been at the company for years and have a specialized skill set they have developed by working on buses.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says that one of the challenges will be helping to place people in jobs where they can use similar skills.

"It opens up a number of employees that need work," said Picente. "It opens up facilities at the county business park that are now vacant and how do we supplant that and what do we do with those. So, there are more questions right now then answers."

Picente says he had no idea Orion was planning on stopping bus production in Oriskany and found out Wednesday morning through a press release.

Congressman Richard Hanna said he was also shocked and disappointed by the news.

"Today's announcement that Daimler will discontinue production of Orion buses is deeply disappointing," Congressman Hanna said. "Daimler has assured us that it will provide separation benefits to all eligible employees and also to employees for which benefits aren't legally required. This is a difficult process and it will be painful. We should remember that it's our talented local workforce, the men and women at the Oriskany plant, that made us a national leader in the transit bus market. We should all be proud of their accomplishments and contributions to our economy. I'm committed to working with all our state and local partners to get our neighbors back on the job as soon as possible."

Daimler representatives said that all employees will receive a severance package, and employees will return to work on Thursday morning.

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