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Harley-Davidson Inc. has informed its employees the motorcycle-maker will eliminate more than 100 hourly union positions at its Springettsbury Township plant, according to union leadership.

Union president Brian Zarilla said company officials told employees Wednesday morning that the plant would eliminate 102 full-time hourly positions and 15 casual positions, all of which are union jobs.

The cuts will begin in mid-October and and conclude by the end of November, Zarilla said. The plant currently employs about 950 union workers, and the cuts will be based on seniority at the facility, he added.

Zarilla said employees are surprised and disappointed by the decision.

"We don't have an easy feeling," he said. "We feel this doesn't have to happen."

Company officials told employees the cuts are related to "lagging sales," Zurilla said, but employees are skeptical following Harley's recent release of a new engine.

"We don't believe sales is driving this decision," he said.

Harley spokeswoman Bernadette Lauer wrote in an email that the company is making the necessary changes to "right-size the company."

"We continually evaluate industry and market changes to provide the best products and services to our customers," Lauer wrote, adding that approximately 200 union employees will be affected across the company's U.S. plants.

Surge production: Zarilla said there is a belief among employees that the reductions are related to surge production, which typically occurs during the spring.

During the 15-week surge, Harley hires 400 to 500 temporary, low-cost workers to ramp up bike production for the peak season, Zarilla said.

Employees believe the company is intentionally withholding bike production through the rest of the year, resulting in the need for fewer year-round employees, he said.

When asked about Zarilla's claim, Lauer reiterated that the changes are related to the company's recent earnings report, which adjusted its production guidance from 269,000-274,000 to 264,000-269,000 units worldwide.

Zarilla also expressed a belief that the company could have dealt with the position reductions differently, by offering retirement packages for the 250 to 275 union workers currently eligible for retirement.

"It was almost a year ago, when we were negotiating a new contract, business was booming, and we were happy with the deal we reached," he said. "None of this was talked about."

The contract, which had included yearly wage increases, was approved last November for the period of Feb. 1, 2016, through Oct. 12, 2022. Zarilla had called the contract "a huge win" for union employees at the time.

Zarilla added that officials made no mention of the company's recent $15 million settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating federal Clean Air Act emission standards.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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