Employees offered paid benefits for 3 months, outplacement services

LOVES PARK — Woodward Inc. has laid off about 425 employees, representing 20% of the workforce from its manufacturing centers at 5001 N. Second St. and 5257 Harlem Road. 

The workers, who were laid off Wednesday, were offered severance packages with paid benefits for three months and outplacement services, company spokeswoman Jeanne Lasley said in an email to the Rockford Register Star.

Woodward Inc. and Hexcel Corp. on Monday announced a mutual decision to terminate their planned merger as the coronavirus pandemic plays havoc with the aerospace and manufacturing sectors, and Woodward separately announced plans for layoffs, furloughs, wage freezes and other measures to weather the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.

"Woodward is conducting permanent layoffs and temporary furloughs because we are temporarily closing business lines, departments, and portions of facilities due to the public health emergency and physical calamity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic," Lasley said in her email.

"We hope to return our furloughed members back to work as soon as possible," she said. "We hope this could be a matter of two months, but we cannot guarantee a time period based on the information that we currently possess. We do not know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, and we do not know how long the precipitous economic downturn in our aerospace markets will last."

Woodward employed about 2,100 people in Loves Park before the layoff.

"This was the first call I've gotten from a manufacturer that said they were going to lay people off," said Mayor Greg Jury, who said a Woodward representative had phoned him Wednesday to notify him of the layoffs.

Woodward CEO Thomas Gendron will continue to serve in his current role and will not retire one year following the merger as he previously intended. Additionally, a companywide wage freeze is in effect, and officers’ salaries and directors’ base retainers through 2020 will be reduced — a 25% reduction for the CEO and independent directors and 10% for all non-CEO officers.

The loss of manufacturing jobs in the city is disheartening, Jury said. The mayor said he's also nervous about what is sure to be a big dip in Loves Park's share of sales tax and gaming revenue, two critical sources of income for the city. Loves Park is the only municipality in Winnebago County that employs its own full-time police, fire and streets departments and does not levy a municipal property tax, Jury said.

Isaac Guerrero: iguerrero@rrstar.com; @isaac_rrs