Plant starts layoffs early

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 4, 2000

Although the company’s original closure announcement Dec.

Friday, February 04, 2000

Although the company’s original closure announcement Dec. 7 gave a 60-day notice as required by the federal WARN Act, many of the plant’s workers will hang up their hard-hats and not return Monday.

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Dave Akers, bargaining unit chairman for Steelworkers Local 3664, said company officials called him to a meeting Thursday morning to announce the early layoff schedule.

"This just made the thing happen a lot sooner," Akers said. "They were completely aware they were going to get laid off Friday."

Company officials told the union that the action would not affect severance packages or any contract matters, he said.

Employees will pick up severance payments at the plant Feb. 18, Akers said. The company will pay all vacations that are due next week, when last paychecks are issued.

Some workers were upset with the day early release, Akers said.

"I think they had plans of maybe saying goodbye, everybody maybe taking pictures, that they didn’t get to do," he said. "The company never did act with the employees’ concerns at heart."

City officials agreed the earlier-than-expected layoffs were an added shock –  another example of Intermet breaking its word to Ironton, Ironton City Council member Jesse Roberts said.

"I guess I thought that as a company they would honor what they had said and once again, they’ve proven that they really don’t care about this community," Roberts said. "I empathize with the workers, having been off five months this year myself, but I also anticipate good things happening with the state’s long-term commitment to the city and with the announcement that they will fund the marketing analysis."

Despite another betrayal of trust, employees tend to keep hard feelings to themselves, Akers added.

"If they don’t want to operate the plant here, there’s nothing we can do about it," he said.

Meanwhile, state Steelworkers representatives remain in contact with at least two companies that toured the plant last month, Akers said.

Those companies are deciding whether or not to invest in the foundry. Akers said the union is not giving up hope. And, neither are city government leaders, city councilman Joe Black said.

"I’m distressed and disappointed that these layoffs finally were announced. My heart goes out to the employees and their families who are losing their source of income," said Black, who endured a plant shutdown himself nine years ago. "I hope that Ironton can find some replacement jobs before too much time elapses."

Intermet has taken more than a foundry from the city, Black added.

"People need to have financial security and a way to pay their bills and put food on the table," he said. "I’m truly dismayed Intermet has closed this foundry and taken that from these workers and their families."

The Ironton Iron closure also means changes for the Steelworkers local.

The union is amalgamated and involves several different bargaining units, so it will remain. But the Ironton Iron unit will drop out as an active membership, Akers said.