3 area plants laying off workers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / December 8, 1999

CONVENT – IMC-Agrico’s layoff in Louisiana is expected to take effect this week, with 225-250 jobs in three River Parishes plants caught up in the workforce reduction.

Spokesman Jim Waites, whose job as general manager for the Louisiana region has also been eliminated, is taking early retirement soon.

Waites reported that notices have been issued to all employees of the Faustina, Uncle Sam and Taft plants, which all employ 765 permanent and contract employees, including 600 IMC workers.

The IMC plants in Taft and Uncle Sam have experienced short-term shutdowns in recent years with some temporary furloughs. Personnelshifts from one plant to others have absorbed some of the impact, but this latest layoff at the Faustina plant cannot be absorbed, Waites said.

Taft ceased operations in June 1999 and Faustina’s phosphoric/sulfuric acide plants will shut down indefinitely and are not expected to operate during 2000.

“We expect the layoff to start some time this week,” Waites added.

“We’re just waiting on word from corporate headquarters in Chicago.”Decreases in prices and cutbacks on orders from customers in China and India spurred the layoffs. In a letter to employees, Waits commented:”Both prices and demand for our products have dropped below historic levels. Uranium and Urea operations were discontinued. By-product carbondioxide sales also ceased when Ashland shut their plant down. While all ofthe above were happening, world production capacity increased and continues to do so. Grain stocks are still at high levels and crop yieldsworldwide have been good. This depresses the price farmers receive fortheir products. There has been no widespread crop failures during the lasttwo years. China and India have sharply curtailed purchases.”Unfortunately, the outlook for next year is not much better.”Other area industries have hired some IMC workers.

“Quite a few plants are hiring,” Waites said. IMC is also providing anoutplacing service, resume help and counseling. Job Service in LaPlace isalso working with the displaced workers.

“We’re trying to call up and down the river to find out who’s hiring,” Waites added, “not just in Louisiana, but throughout the country.”A severance program is in place for long-term employees, with one week of pay per year through the first 10 years, 1.25 weeks’ pay per year for11-20 years’ service, 1.5 weeks’ pay per year for 21-30 years’ service andtwo weeks per year for more than 30 years’ service.

A retirement package will also be offered to qualifying employees who are age 50-64 as of Dec. 31, with at least 10 years’ service and if they arecaught in this layoff.

Both hourly and salaried employees are included in the layoff.

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