Lagging economy forces reduction of Thorngate workweek

Monday, August 18, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Thorngate, Ltd. in Cape Girardeau will be cutting back its employees' workweek to three days.
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Thorngate, Ltd. in Cape Girardeau will be cutting back its employees' workweek to three days.

Citing declining sales and a lackluster economy, Thorngate Ltd., is shortening its employees' workweek at its Cape Girardeau plant. The move is effective immediately.

The facility, which manufactures high-end men's clothing at 1507 Independence St., will cut back the workweek of its 335 employees from five to three days. Two-hundred sixty employees work in the sewing department and 65 work in the cutting department.

No reductions are planned for Thorngate's clothing store at 10 N. Sprigg St. in Cape Girardeau.

Lennart Bjorkland, executive vice president of manufacturing for parent company Hartmarx in Chicago, Ill., said all employees still will retain health insurance and other benefits.

"Decisions like these are never easy," Bjorkland said. "We don't take decisions like this one lightly because we know we're affecting a lot of people."

Most of the employees whose workweek was reduced are hourly workers. Bjorkland said that a small number of salaried employees would continue working a five-day workweek.

He was unsure when or if those employees would return to a full workweek.

"In today's economy, it's tough on our industry," Bjorkland said. "Their return to work depends on how the textile industry is performing."

Despite attempts by the Southeast Missourian, employees would not comment on the situation.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said the recent move comes as no surprise, as the textile industry as been challenged by foreign competitors for the past two decades. But he expects Thorngate to weather the most recent announcement and in the end come out stronger.

"This most recent move to reduce their workweek was a decision that I'm sure management didn't make lightly," Knudtson said. "While this will have an impact on many of our local employees, I am confident in Thorngate's ability to make the hard decisions to ensure that they are around to employ future generations of Southeast Missourians. ... I am equally confident in the resiliency of the work force in Southeast Missouri."

The move comes three months after Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke to more than 200 people inside Thorngate's plant. During his May 13 speech, Obama mentioned that the "economic pie has grown, but the average family is getting a smaller and smaller slice."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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