NEW BEDFORD — One of the area’s largest employers, The Acushnet Company, has ceased operation at its golf ball manufacturing plants, placing the employees who work there on furlough as of March 27.
Acushnet Company produces golf equipment and clothing, with a headquarters and distribution center in Fairhaven and golf ball manufacturing plants in New Bedford.
The director of communications for Titleist, Joe Gomes, said they suspended their golf ball operations on March 16, but kept some essential services up and running, including building security, data security, and transportation logistics which includes a “skeleton crew” at the distribution center.
The suspension of golf ball operations was extended, according to Gomes.
“Regarding the ball plants, I can tell you that due to health and safety precautions and government advisories in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we (Acushnet Company) have extended the suspension of our Golf Ball Operations in our Massachusetts facilities, with a targeted reopening date of May 4, 2020,” Gomes said in an email, “Hourly associates in these facilities will be placed on furlough during this time and will retain their full selected Acushnet benefits.”
Gomes said the decision to reopen will depend on a number of factors including health and safety concerns and government actions.
“We are committed to resuming our Golf Ball Operations as soon as it is safe for our associates and the local community,” Gomes said.
Since Gov. Charlie Baker announced the closure of all non-essential businesses in the state to stem the spread of the coronavirus, there has been a debate about what businesses should actually be deemed essential.
Two employees of Acushnet Company, who said they wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, questioned last week why they were still required to come into work, since the golf ball manufacturing plants had closed.
“I really don’t see how they can spin the golf equipment, marketing materials or people issuing credits to companies as essential,” one employee said last week, “At least 10 states won’t have anyone to receive things anyway.”
Gomes said employees who are able to have been encouraged to work remotely.
Those employees who are not able to work remotely, according to Gomes, were told if they do not feel comfortable in the workplace for any reason to inform his or her manager and “that associate would be allowed to stay home with pay.”
The two employees both said they were not given that option, but were instead told they would have to use personal time off if they wanted to stay home.
“Nobody expressed that to me,” one employee said about the company saying they were able to stay home with pay.
“When we have brought it up, they told us we can stay home but we won’t get paid,” another employee said on Thursday.
The employee went on to say 90% of the company was working remotely or not working.
“We just kind of feel like the trash of the company,” she said, since that group of workers had to keep working in the facilities and the other employees were initially sent home with pay.
Then on Friday, after The Standard-Times initially reached out to Acushnet Company, that employee said “One of the managers from Titleist just called me and said they are shutting down till further notice. They will pay us for next week but we will have to open a claim April 6th.”
When The Standard-Times reached out to confirm this information with Gomes, he said the source was not providing accurate information.
When asked to clarify what was inaccurate about the employee’s statements on Monday, Gomes said, “Consistent with the governor’s advisory regarding logistics and transportation, we do have skeleton crews in place at our distribution center that are continuing to practice strict social distancing measures. As discussed on our original phone call last week, associates were provided the opportunity to not come into work if they did not feel comfortable during this unprecedented time.”
The other employee said he was also told Friday that he would be off this week with pay, but said 10 employees were still working in the distribution center.
He did say those employees were given the choice to keep working or not.
The employee called going into work during the pandemic stressful and said he was glad when he was told he would no longer have to come in.