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TRANSPORTATION Freightways abruptly closes doors



Published: Tue, September 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The trucking company stopped operations in eight Ohio cities, including Girard.

STAFF/WIRE REPORTS

SEATTLE -- Labor Day layoffs at Consolidated Freightways were like "a slap in the face" for hundreds of employees who showed up for work on the holiday only to find the offices locked, a union spokesman said.

"That's like telling your wife you're getting divorced on Valentine's Day," said Carlos N. Ramos, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 776 in Harrisburg.

The company said it would stop operations immediately, affecting about 15,500 employees, including hundreds at truck terminals in eight Ohio cities, including Girard.

In a recorded telephone message, Chief Executive John Brincko told workers at the trucking company not to show up today.

"Thank you for dialing in on this holiday weekend. I hope you and your family are enjoying the time together," said Brincko, who was named chief executive three months ago. "I have some extremely urgent and sad news to share with you today. ... Your employment ends immediately."

The closing was unexpected, even though the company had been losing money, said Larry Spencer, business agent with Teamsters Local 377 in Youngstown.

A dozen drivers were based at the Girard terminal at 1730 N. State St. Spencer said he isn't sure how the severance will be handled because he hasn't received word from the company.

The company said more than 80 percent of its work force was receiving termination notices immediately. The remaining supervisory and management positions were to be phased out quickly.

The 73-year-old company said it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

Recent losses

The Vancouver, Wash., company lost $36.5 million on $463 million in revenue in the first quarter of this year. It lost $104.3 million last year and $7.6 million in 2000.

Its stock had tumbled in the past two weeks, ever since it announced it might lose its listing on the Nasdaq stock market.

In letters being mailed to workers, the company said it simply didn't have enough money to continue operations.

"We expected that recent discussions with our banks, other lenders and real estate investors would enable us to obtain significant additional financial resources," the letters said. "Unfortunately, this has not been the case."

Operations of the company's CF AirFreight and Canadian Freightways Ltd. subsidiaries were not affected.

Bret Caldwell, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington, D.C., said Consolidated had faced "some serious management challenges over the past several years." He said Brincko was "trying to turn the ship around, but he was just brought in too late to have the real impact he could have had."

Phone listings show eight Consolidated Freightways operations in Ohio -- none of which was answering phones or accepting messages Monday. The sites are Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Lima in northwest Ohio; Richfield and Girard in northeast Ohio; Belpre in southeast Ohio; and the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester.

Teamsters officials in Columbus and Toledo said workers should not have problems finding jobs despite the economic downturn.




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