GE workforce down substantially in Schenectady

Executive says headcount reduced 34 percent in Schenectady and Greenville
General Electric's Schenectady facility is shown in December.
General Electric's Schenectady facility is shown in December.

SCHENECTADY — General Electric’s Schenectady workforce apparently has dipped below 3,000, as GE Power has cut 34 percent of the manufacturing personnel at its Schenectady and Greenville, S.C., production facilities in a little more than a year.

The disclosure came Thursday during a General Electric conference call with industry analysts, as executives sought to reinforce the point that GE is making the necessary changes to improve profitability.

There were, however, no specifics about how many jobs were cut and where. The two facilities are qute different — gas turbines and generators are manufactured in Greenville, while steam turbines and generators are built and serviced in Schenectady.

GE Power as a whole reduced its workforce by 29 percent in 2018, from roughly 83,500 to 59,700.

Meanwhile, GE Power is being split into two businesses — one for Gas, one for everything else — and its headquarters structure is being dismantled with an unspecified number of jobs either being relocated or eliminated entirely.

There have been multiple job cuts in both Schenectady and Greenville in recent years that likely could be counted toward a 34 percent total mentioned Thursday by GE Gas Power CEO Scott Strazik. 

The cuts typically were fairly small in Schenectady. Each time, the local news media would ask about them, and each time, GE would confirm cuts had been made, without specifying the number or job titles of those affected. It also would provide only a round number for the total size of its Schenectady workforce. As recently as 16 months ago, GE said 4,000 people worked at the sprawling campus at the foot of Erie Boulevard.

Asked on Thursday for details about its Schenectady workforce, General Electric once again provided only a round number, this time for its entire Capital Region workforce — 4,000. That total would include the large Global Research headquarters in Niskayuna (its last reported workforce was about 1,500) and a small medical imaging factory in North Greenbush (last reported workforce at about 200).

This would mean the total Schenectady workforce has fallen below 3,000, perhaps well below 3,000.

The Schenectady/Rotterdam campus — birthplace of General Electric and until recently the headquarters of GE Power — also hosts personnel from other GE businesses, including “several hundred” employees of the onshore wind component of GE Renewable Energy.

More from this week: Our top stories March 9-15, 2019

The Greenville News reported that GE Power’s Greenville plant had a workforce of about 3,400 in mid-2018, after two rounds of layoffs of undisclosed size in 2017.

The conference call with analysts Thursday followed GE’s presentation of its outlook for 2019. 

It was not a glowing or cheery outlook: GE said this would be a “reset year” for the company.

The company projects a free cash flow of anywhere from break-even to negative $2 billion, and expects earnings per share of 50 to 60 cents, which is less than what analysts had been expecting.

“2020 and 2021 will be meaningfully better,” the company predicted.

The debt-burdened industrial conglomerate said its priorities for this year are clear: reduce leverage, improve financial position, and “strengthen our businesses, starting with Power.”

GE Power is struggling with costs and revenue. It expects orders for its gas turbines to total just 25 to 30 gigawatts capacity in 2019, down from 29 GW in 2018, 34 GW in 2017 and 48 GW in 2016.

GE Power’s free cash flow is expected to be down in 2019, negative but significantly better in 2020, and positive in 2021.

General Electric’s 10-K filings — the comprehensive annual report required to be submitted to federal stock market regulators — showed General Electric as a whole shrank from 313,000 to 283,000 employees in 2018, decreased from 191 to 162 U.S. manufacturing facilities and shrank from 348 to 297 plants in other countries.

During the same period, General Electric decreased its corporate head count from 28,000 to 18,000. More changes are underway, the company said.

GE CEO H. Lawrence Culp Jr. alternated between acknowledging the gravity of the problems facing the company and sharing his optimism that those problems can and will be fixed, then explaining how.

He said first-quarter financials are expected to be significantly worse in 2019 than in 2018.

“We are working diligently to return GE to a position of strength,” he said. “This is a game of inches, every single day … This year will be more about what we do than what we say.”

General Electric meanwhile has been working to simplify its famously dense financial reporting. Three analysts on Thursday’s conference call separately thanked the executive team for the level of detail being offered now.

The company’s stock closed 2.8 percent higher at $10.30 per share on average trading volume Thursday.

Categories: Business, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County


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