AKRON, Ohio – Plans to relocate 350 manufacturing jobs from United Production Technologies’ Akron plant have been delayed as a precautionary measure ahead of the incoming Trump administration, according to unnamed sources at UPT.
The layoffs, announced in May, would move production of several products used primarily by auto manufacturers to a facility in Monterrey, Mexico. The new location is largely complete, with layoffs in Akron expected to begin in mid-Janary and continuing through April.
UPT announced on Friday that the planned layoffs would be postponed due to “delays in commissioning new equipment” at the Mexico location. A source involved in the relocation project confirmed that there are difficulties in completing the new installation in Mexico, but that the departments experiencing difficulties were not expected to come on line until April, when the final round of layoffs will take place in Akron.
According to the source, it is anticipation of a more protectionist administration, rather than equipment issues, that are driving the delay in relocating production. “[The President-Elect] was talking about 35% import tariffs, re-negotiating NAFTA, and retribution toward companies that offshore manufacturing jobs. How much of this type of stuff he can actually accomplish remains to be seen but he does seem pretty serious about it, so for now the management is taking a wait-and-see approach,” said the source.
Trade was a central issue for Trump during his campaign. He argued that free-trade agreements, such as NAFTA, were responsible for the collapse of the American manufacturing industry. Free-trade agreements lower the barriers to exporting and importing goods, which many economists argue results in outsourced production and reduced wages in the United States. Trump promised to re-negotiate NAFTA, which governs trade between North American nations, or to scrap it altogether.
GOP leadership’s support for Trump’s protectionist promises is currently unknown, so it may be February or March before his full abilities to effect changes in trade policy will be understood. This has not stopped the President-Elect from taking action even before he takes office. Earlier this month, Trump negotiated a deal with United Technologies to retain around 800 of the 2,100 jobs their subsidiary Carrier was intending to move to Mexico by closing two plants in Indiana.