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Workers at Saved Carrier Plant Say Shutdown Feels ‘Inevitable’

Employees say rampant absenteeism has been crippling the plant, and they blame it on low morale.

Sometimes the struggles of a specific business can become swept into the public consciousness, and such was the case with the Carrier Corporation.

In 2016, footage leaked online showed a company executive announcing parent company United Technologies’ plans to outsource production of Carrier furnaces from Indiana to Mexico. The resulting closure of an Indianapolis plant would mean layoffs of 1,350 workers, plus several hundred more at another Indiana plant location.

The story gained some national attention when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump starting referring to the situation in his stump speeches on the campaign trail. He promised to save the plant and, immediately following the election, facilitated negotiations between Carrier and local officials that resulted in the plant staying open and stemming the job loss by about two-thirds.

So everything worked out in the end, right? Well, it might not be that simple.

The New York Times is reporting that, two years later, things aren’t so rosy at the Carrier Indianapolis plant. According to the report, the demand for Carrier furnaces is still high, but the company has found itself in many shutdown scenarios because it doesn’t have enough workers for the day.

Employees say rampant absenteeism has been crippling the plant, and they’re blaming it on staff morale that they say is in the dumps. Many workers cite what they say is a foreboding that a factory shutdown is “inevitable” and that their employer has kicked the can down the road with the intention of closing at “a more politically opportune moment.”

The New York Times piece cites a lot of anecdotal information – quotes from workers, as well as comments from a closed Carrier Facebook group where union employees were sounding off about the situation. In a statement, Carrier’s position is that there is no increase in absenteeism and that the plant has actually expanded production through a new line for gas furnaces. Many employees, it appears, are putting in lots of hours with mandatory overtime, so perhaps the perception of rampant sick time is truly because workers are exhausted.

But supervisor Robin Maynard says it’s something else: that people just don’t care about the job anymore. Says Maynard, “It makes it so depressing you don’t feel like going in. I need the job, but some days you just want it to be over with.”

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