A General Electric spokesperson has confirmed that the GE Aviation plant in Rutland is in the process of recalling hourly employees who had been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are pleased that circumstances allow for this employee recall. We appreciate the commitment of all our employees during this difficult time and we remain focused on protecting their safety, continuing to serve our customers and preserving our capability to respond as the industry recovers,” said the spokesperson in an email.
The company didn’t say how many employees were returning, over what period of time they would return, or what their roles within the company were.
The company employs about 1,400 people in its Rutland County facilities, making it one of the area’s largest.
The company told the Herald in April that it would be temporarily laying off a number of employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A message to Rutland GE employees told them to expect 60% of the local workforce to be temporarily laid off due to a lack of work.
It’s not clear how many employees the local plants actually laid off. The company did claim it would pay its share of those employee’s health benefits and would offer aid based on how long they had worked there.
“It’s great news that they’re bringing people back, wonderful news,” said Christopher Carrigan, vice president of business development at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, on Monday.
“I would say the state of the state (of manufacturing) is in a period of adapting and pivoting, and obviously everyone across the board was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In manufacturing, the impact really varied by type of company and by industry,” he said.
Companies that make medical equipment or supply the biotech, aerospace, and defense sectors were less impacted than others, but the pandemic’s effect on air travel did have a ripple effect across the economy, said Carrigan. Less people flying means less need for new aircraft and replacement parts.
“I would say the biggest challenge that our employers are facing right now is determining an employee’s health status and whether they should return to work,” said Carrigan.
Many manufacturers, like other businesses, have had those employees that can work from home doing so, and they’ve limited company travel. Employees still coming in to work on-site are subject to temperature screenings. Carrigan said some are using handheld thermometers while others are looking at thermal imaging devices that can screen large numbers of people at once.
Prior to the pandemic, skilled manufacturing laborers were hard to find in Vermont. That hasn’t changed, said Carrigan, though he did highlight an $8 million contract the military has entered into with Vermont Technical College to make its Randolph Center campus a hub for creating new, skilled laborers.