The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 25, 2008

Some people just don’t want a job

By CARL E. FEATHER - Lifestyle Editor - cfeather@starbeacon.com

Ashtabula County Commissioner Deborah Newcomb talks to a lot of employers, and they all express the same concern: finding people reliable people with basic skills is a problem.

“They want someone who shows up for work, who can pass a drug and alcohol test and who has basic reading and math skills,” she says. “It sounds easy, but it’s not.”

Ron Clutter owns Nordic Air in Harpersfield Township, which employs more than 200 persons, the majority of them from Ashtabula County. Clutter says hiring reliable hourly employees is a challenge due to two issues: drug use and absenteeism.

To encourage hourly workers to simply show up for work, Nordic Air offers workers quarterly attendance bonuses averaging about $1,000 each. Despite the incentive, employees still fail to come to work, and eventually lose their bonuses – and good-paying jobs.

The company’s mandatory, random, surprise drug testing further narrows the field. Clutter invests up to $100,000 per year on drug testing to ensure a drug-free workforce and safe environment. Both temporary and long-term employees are tested – even his mother, an office worker, is tested. If there is a problem, the company helps workers get counseling.

“We don’t force you out of a job,” he says. “We will go to the N-th degree to project our good employees.”

Even so, Clutter knows if he were to randomly pick 100 applicants from the pool of people who have applied for hourly jobs, only a third would make the cut because of substance-abuse and attendance issues.

“These are the main two reasons why people are not working here,” Clutter says. “You would not believe the amount of absenteeism. If you can’t come to work, I can’t help you increase your wages and I can’t help you pay off your debts.”