November 7, 2002

front page
more news
ad information
contact information


Vernay conducts first round of layoffs at local facilities

Vernay Laboratories last month laid off its first group of employees as the initial step in the company’s plan to close its two Dayton Street plants.

According to Plant Manager Mike Maloy, 25 hourly workers were laid off on Friday, Oct. 11. Most of the employees were production line workers who had the least amount of seniority, in most cases less than five years, he said.

In June, Vernay announced that it would close its Dayton Street plants by the middle of next year, phasing out about 167 positions. The largest plant will close in the middle of January. The other will stop production by mid-2003.

Since the June announcement, 25 employees have left the company, many through early retirement, said Vernay union representative Ralph Foster. Following the initial round of layoffs, 126 hourly workers are still employed in the plants, he said.

Vernay is shutting down its Yellow Springs production facilities for a variety of reasons, including a shifting customer base, outmoded production techniques at the local plants and the costs associated with an upcoming environmental cleanup which will be supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company’s headquarters and research and development division, which includes about 50 employees, will remain at Vernay’s South College Street location for the foreseeable future, according to Vernay president and CEO Tom Allen.

Vernay had originally scheduled the initial layoff to take place at the end of September, but pushed the date back two weeks due to production demands, according to Maloy. Fifteen more workers were scheduled to be laid off last Friday, Nov. 1, but the layoffs were postponed until an unspecified date, Foster said.

The layoffs are taking place later than originally scheduled due to the complexities in the process of transferring production facilities from Yellow Springs to the company’s plants in Georgia and South Carolina, said Maloy.

“We were concerned that our customers would suffer” if the company stuck to its original schedule, Maloy said. “We want to continue to serve our customers with quality products and timely delivery.”

Overall, the whole schedule of layoffs has been moved back one or two weeks, said Maloy, with the last layoffs having been moved from the end of December to mid-January. The original plan called for layoffs to begin late September and additional layoffs every two weeks, but that plan is “being reformulated,” said Maloy. “We will continue with some sort of separation until the end of the year,” he said.

Not knowing exactly when they will be laid off has heightened anxiety among plant workers, Foster said.

“Workers ask me every day, but I don’t have the answers for them,” he said.

The lack of clear information has added to workers’ frustration and dissatisfaction with management, according to one of the 25 employees who recently lost their jobs.

“People have a bad attitude toward management,” said the employee who asked not to be named. “Management doesn’t tell us anything. We didn’t know when it was coming.”

Individual workers received word of their impending layoffs on Monday, Oct. 7, four days before the layoffs actually took place, Maloy said. The company is bound by union contract to give workers at least 72 hours notice before they lose their jobs, Maloy said.

However, workers have known for months that a layoff was coming in October, said Maloy, and that those who lost their jobs first would be those with the least seniority.

Workers may collect 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, which amounts to half a worker’s regular pay, with the possibility of a 13-week extension, Foster said. Workers also have the option to continue receiving insurance coverage for six months, with partial co-pay.

Hourly workers have had an opportunity to meet with both state and county officials to discuss unemployment benefits and job-training possibilities, Maloy said.

However, Foster said, some workers say they aren’t able to take advantage of training for a new job since they don’t know exactly when their current jobs end.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” he said.

Management also feels frustrated, and is doing its best to communicate clearly, said Maloy.

“I want to stress that we’re attempting to communicate as much in advance as possible,” he said. “It’s a very difficult process for us and we’re working hard to try to make it go as smoothly as possible for the hourly employees and the company overall.”

—Diane Chiddister