October 1, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
60°F
test

Invacare lays off 68 employees

ELYRIA — The federal consent decree ordering Invacare Corp. to work with the Food and Drug Administration on issues of quality continues to have a stinging effect on employees.

In a move that comes less than six months after cutting 40 percent of its workforce, Invacare laid off 68 hourly employees Monday morning at its Taylor Street facility. The workforce reduction took effect immediately and is indefinite at this point, said Invacare spokeswoman Lara Mahoney.

It mimics the scene just days after Christmas when 143 employees were let go and comes several weeks after some hourly employees saw their work week reduced from five days to three days.

“We have been operating under the terms of the consent degree for months now and that has meant limited production since December,” Mahoney said. “We have had to make adjustments to the workforce to meet the existing demands.”

The laid-off employees will receive eight weeks of pay and benefits, out-placement services and will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Mahoney said about 150 employees are doing some production at the Taylor Street facility, and there are about 1,000 associates at the Elyria/North Ridgeville campus.

Under the terms of the federal consent degree, Invacare has to complete three certification audits by an independent third party.

The first two audits began in December and include the review of production and procedures, and design controls. Completion of the two audits will allow Invacare to resume production of parts needed for other products as well as the design and engineering of power wheelchairs and power beds.

A third audit — a more comprehensive one — began in March.

“We are making progress and doing what we can to demonstrate our compliance to the third party,” Mahoney said. “When those audits are done, the FDA will come in and complete its own review. When the FDA is complete, it will allow us to exit the injunction decree.”

Until then, Mahoney said Invacare is still able to manufacture in certain situations. It requires additional documentation and a physician to sign off on all patient-ordered equipment.

“Anything we do that affects our employees is difficult and we regret having to take this action, but our primary focus is to get through these audits, demonstrate our compliance and get back to full production,” Mahoney said.

City Finance Director Ted Pileski said any layoffs in the city will have a ripple effect that will be felt in the city’s general fund. When 143 Invacare employees were cut in December, it accounted for nearly $200,000 in revenue. Another 68 employees lost could be upward of $50,000 more.

“Ouch, can’t take losing too many employees,” Pileski said. “But they are still up there as a No. 1 employer for now.”

This latest round of layoffs should not be seen as Invacare wavering on its commitment to Elyria. Mahoney said the company has expended considerable time and money to achieve compliance with the end goal of increased production.

“We are proud of what we do and we make amazing products at this plant that make people’s lives better,” she said. “We are committed to getting back to full production.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.