Local News

Youngsville company cuts costs, hours so workers can keep jobs

Posted January 29, 2009 5:21 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Almost every day, there are reports of mass layoffs and companies slashing workers' hours. During these tough economic times, however, some businesses are getting creative to stay afloat.

At Welsh Paper Co. in Youngsville, everyone has pitched in to save jobs. Jimmie Upchurch is trained to work in shipping and receiving, but he is doing a lot more these days.

"If I have to make a delivery, I'll jump in a truck. If I have to unload a truck, I'll unload a truck,” Upchurch said.

Welsh decided to do everything it could to avoid laying off people off. The solution was to cut everybody's hours by a certain percentage each week and keep employees extra busy.

"What we've done is built a matrix of their skills, and we've done a lot of cross-training to make sure nothing suffers on the outside,” Tony Lovette, Welsh Paper president, said.

In perhaps the biggest change, the company canceled all contracts with outside vendors. There are no more cleaning crews, or coffee service or outsiders filling the vending machines. The staff is pitching in to do that work, even upper management

"The title doesn't mean a whole lot. Besides, I've been here a long time and have a lot of experience, but we're all emptying trash cans, (and) changing paper towel dispensers,” said Mark Smolan, vice president of purchasing.

These changes aren't just happening inside the building at Welsh. They extend outside to grounds maintenance, too.

"We've got warehouse workers right now that are taking care of the grounds: painting, sheet rock, wiring, plumbing. We're finding folks that have skills inside that we never knew they had," Lovette said.

Employees say the reduction in hours and doing work that isn't in their job descriptions sure beats being unemployed.

"I have to be thankful that we still have 32 hours, (and) still have a job,  which means we still got benefits,” Upchurch said.

"We're wearing several more hats than we're used to wearing, but as a result, I think it has improved morale because it has required us to pull together,” Smolan said.

Lovette says the company has saved 15 percent so far.