Bosch offering more buyouts

The Robert Bosch plant in North Charleston, like many other automotive suppliers, has been hit hard by declining sales in the tight economy.

Robert Bosch LLC is offering a second round of voluntary buyouts to workers at its sprawling factory on Dorchester Road, citing deteriorating demand from automobile makers.

The roughly 1,900 workers at the North Charleston plant, one of the region's largest private-sector employers, have until March 6 to make a decision, said Bosch spokeswoman Becky MacDonald.

Employees were notified of the buyout option Wednesday. The company has not set a payroll-reduction goal, MacDonald said.

"We're just putting it out there to see what our associates might be interested in," she said.

Bosch and many other automotive suppliers have been hard-hit by the steep sales declines that vehicle makers are reporting as buyers rein in spending and unemployment rises.

"It all has to do with customer orders and what's going on in the market," MacDonald said.

Bosch's local plant makes fuel injectors for diesel and gasoline-powered engines as well as brake components. The parts are installed in domestic and overseas vehicles.

Bosch announced a similar employee-buyout program in December, and 85 workers volunteered to take severance packages based on years of service and seniority.

But that wasn't enough, as the company last month said it would reduce its local payroll by about 200, or roughly 10 percent, including the workers who left on their own.

Even before the first round of buyouts was announced, the local Bosch plant had been cutting labor costs.

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The factory in July began a review of its temporary work-force needs as a result of the auto industry slowdown.

In November Bosch announced that it had laid off 20 employees and eliminated most contractual positions at the 905,760-square-foot factory.

Privately held Bosch is part of Germany-based Robert Bosch Gmbh. Its U.S. headquarters is in Michigan.

The company opened its Dorchester County plant in 1973 with 105 workers, and over the last three decades it has expanded the factory six times at a cost of more than $500 million.