Spark plug operation moving to Mexico; up to 500 jobs to be lost


FOSTORIA - Honeywell International Inc., whose Fostoria spark plug plant is the city's largest employer with 650 workers, plans to move work to a new plant it is building in Mexico and eliminate up to 500 jobs by 2009.

Officials of United Auto Workers Local 533, which represents workers at the firm's Autolite unit plant in Fostoria, said this week that company officials told them on Jan. 19 that the plant work force would be cut to 130 to 250 jobs as work begins shifting south.

The factory, which opened more than 70 years ago, is the last spark plug maker in northwest Ohio. It makes plugs with Autolite and other labels. The average worker made about $20 an hour three years ago.

In a statement, Honeywell said that in 2004 both sides agreed the company would begin focusing on premium auto parts in Fostoria and shift all other products to lower-cost countries, including China and Mexico.

Moving work to the Mexico operation will allow Autolite to lower its costs and compete better in the nonpremium spark plug segment. Production there will begin in 2008.

The union said it was told work would be moved because of rising costs of health care, insurance, pensions, retiree medical insurance, and precious metals as well as lower demand and prices.

In a statement, the UAW said it was told there was nothing it could do to stop the job losses and there would be no further negotiations.