SALT LAKE CITY — Systems engineer Art Garvin said he'd heard rumors of layoffs at L-3 Communications, but he felt pretty confident his job was safe.
“It kind of caught me with my pants down,” said Garvin, 68, who was laid off by the defense contractor on Sept. 5 after nearly 30 years of service with the company.
But Garvin calls himself a resilient person who’s been through worse times in his life.
“I spent a year dodging bullets in Vietnam,” he said, “so this is a piece of cake compared to that. It’s an inconvenience as opposed to a catastrophe.”
A company statement indicated that more than 200 employees, about 5.5 percent of L-3 Communications' workforce, were let go during the recent round of layoffs.
L-3 offered employees a voluntary separation package in the weeks leading up to the cuts. Garvin said he considered taking the separation package and $3,000 bonus until his boss offered him a raise.
“I sort of — and maybe wrongly — interpreted that as an incentive not to volunteer,” he said. “It kind of sounded like they didn’t want me to take the voluntary (buyout), and I was OK with that.”
Garvin said one of the complications of his “forced retirement” is losing his benefits in the wake of his colon cancer diagnosis three years ago.
“That’s another bullet I dodged,” he said.
After the diagnosis, Garvin has undergone surgery and chemotherapy treatments. Since then, there have been no signs of cancer, he said.
“I’m very optimistic that I’ve got this thing beat,” Garvin said. “But I still have to go through two more (colonoscopies without signs of cancer) to convince everybody else."
Garvin said he will continue his existing insurance through L-3, which he can do for 18 months, and expects to pay about $460 a month. He said that insurance will get him very close to being cancer-free for five years.
Despite losing his job, Garvin said he's trying to maintain a positive outlook, saying now he’ll have more time to spend with family and the woodworking projects he’s been wanting to do.
“On the upside, I get to spend more time with my granddaughter, who is more my friend than she is a granddaughter,” he said. “I never felt I could spend as much time as I would like with her.”
Garvin also said he's now able to volunteer to go on field trips with 7-year-old Kaeli, something he couldn’t do before because of the demands of his job.
“If people will think about their problems, there’s usually not an ideal solution but a viable solution,” he said. “Even if the worst occurs, I’ve had a pretty good run.”
Nick Ferguson, a former L-3 operations project manager, said he opted to take the voluntary separation package, and he's happy with his new job at Signature Products Group.
“The work dynamic, the atmosphere at L-3 was changing,” Ferguson said. “It was changing pretty quick ever since the layoffs earlier this year.”
He said he thought about looking for other employment, and the offer for a voluntary separation package was the nudge he needed to start that search.
“That very afternoon I updated my résumé,” Ferguson said.
And on the day of the separation application deadline, he was offered the new job.
“It was really fortunate,” said Ferguson, 30, father of a 3-year-old son.
Despite the fortuitous timing, he said he likely would have left L-3 anyway.
“The biggest deal was that it went from a place where you were recognized for going above and beyond to a place where you were expected to go above and beyond because you were lucky to have a job,” Ferguson said.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services has been working with the L-3 employees who were laid off, said department spokesman Nic Dunn. A program called Rapid Response has been implemented at the department to help laid-off employees find new jobs as quickly as possible, he said.
“We’re definitely there to spring into action quickly,” Dunn said. “Very, very quickly, you’re going to be connected with resources for new jobs in your field or a related field.”
The department's services range from hosting a workshop to handing out brochures, networking and connecting people with resources for more training if needed, he said.
“Basically, any piece of information you would need to have a stable, smooth and fast transition back into another job, that’s what we offer someone who’s laid off,” Dunn said. “You've got to realize this is a tumultuous time for these individuals if they’re effected by layoffs.”
The department's main purpose is to funnel people into employment, he said.
"The goal is always to get people back to work,” Dunn said.
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