Saturday, March 21, 2009

Underwear company to shrink work week to save jobs

Two-hundred employees at an underwear manufacturing company in Nova Scotia can expect to be working a four-day week next month to avoid layoffs.

The work-sharing plan involves half the workforce at the Stanfield's operation in Truro.

"What we've seen since Dec. 1 is softer retail sales, and that seems to be continuing. That obviously means we can't keep our people busy full time," said Andrew Sears, the company's vice-president of manufacturing.

The 130-year-old company is forecasting a 10-20 per cent drop in sales of T-shirts and briefs this year. As a result, it's cutting back its knitting and stitching operations from five days to four.

Stanfield's has applied to Service Canada for Employment Insurance benefits to cover that fifth day for employees, which could mean workers receive 90 per cent of their wage for working 80 per cent of the time.

"People are nervous and we've tried to calm their nerves," said Sears. "A lot of people see this as the best way to protect most of their earnings."

Without making the change, he added, there would be temporary layoffs.

The family-owned business has resisted moving more of its production offshore where labour costs are lower. About 90 per cent of Stanfield's products are still made in Nova Scotia.

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