Sumitomo Rubber offers voluntary buyouts

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Workers contacted media with concerns about working during the pandemic. The plant closed for three weeks and now it is offering voluntary buyouts to any employee too concerned about returning

Sumitomo Rubber, Tonawanda_296664

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB)–As Sumitomo Rubber prepares to reopen after a three-week shutdown, it is offering employees voluntary buyouts if they are still concerned about working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers contacted media early in the pandemic with concerns about getting sick or getting their family sick by having to work at the tire manufacturer. The state had already deemed the company an essential business, allowing it to remain open with certain conditions.

More employees complained and company officials then agreed to a three-week shutdown of the plant to do a deep clean and discuss how to move forward in this very tough business climate.

“As the COVID-19 crisis evolved, navigating these last couple of months have been difficult,” wrote Yasutaka II, the CEO, in a letter to workers.

“We are proud of how we mutually adjusted and handled this crisis. We understand there have been frustrations, concerns, and constant questions. This is like nothing we ever have seen, and we respect everyone’s thoughts on this pandemic. We meet every day and focus on how we can make the work environment safer and better with most ideas coming from each of you.”

The company did not want to have disclosed the buyout offers to protect employee privacy.

“We do not comment on matters related to compensation or other private and sensitive matters to our team members,” said Russell Pustulka, the senior director of human resources.

“We are making long term decisions to protect the 1,300 team members and families to make this business a success.  We are committed to our team, their families and the WNY region.”

The company told employees that they need to make a decision by Friday, May 15. Those who choose to separate from the company will have their last day on May 22.

“We know the coming months will be challenging and difficult,” Yasutaka II said, who also disclosed he now lives in Western New York.

“We will be fighting to ensure we are a strong US manufacturer for years to come … I am committed, with all of you, to making this plant stronger than ever. I am excited to be living in the Western New York region and am immensely proud of this business. We have unlimited potential, and I look forward to the journey.”

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