By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
TOWN OF TONAWANDA — DuPont Co. on Tuesday announced it will cut 1,500 jobs nationally following a decline in business, in a move that will include an undisclosed number of layoffs at Tonawanda’s Yerkes plant.
Just months after touting “substantial investment” in the facility earlier this year, plant higher-ups wouldn’t say exactly how many layoffs are now in store in Tonawanda. Plant spokesman Peter Ciotta said “we will continue to employ about 600 people.”
It was not clear exactly how many employees work at the plant.
“From our side we’re predicting at least 20 (layoffs),” said United Steel Workers Local 6992 President Gary Guralni, adding his membership will continue to work while contract negotiations continue. “I don’t know precisely what it’s going to wind up being.”
The union, which represents about 400 workers at the plant, has been in negotiations with plant managers since April, when Ciotta said members approached the plant wanting to open the contract for changes.
Guralni said the union rejected a contract proposal Tuesday, but could not discuss specifically what was offered. He said from his perspective, job security is the unit’s main goal.
Union officials say they will continue negotiations today, though Ciotta made clear that the status of the negotiations has nothing to do with Tuesday’s announcement.
“Our announcement from Yerkes is in concert with DuPont’s broader announcement shared today,” he said.
In a statemet released by DuPont Tuesday, it is made clear that a “reduction of positons” will take place at the plant and at others across the country because of low production volumes in the plant’s two core lines of business — Corian sufaces and polyvinyl films used to coat products including solar panels.
“We have been experiencing continued low demand due to ongoing softness in key global markets,” said Plant Manager Ronald A. Lee. “This has made it necessary for us to take steps to adjust staffing to align with the decline in production.”
In June, the plant made headlines when union members cited safety concerns and news that the plant planned on shedding about 6 positons, though it had been awarded a $550,000 tax credit intended for job creation.
The plant is also the site of a fatal explosion in 2010 in which federal officials found plant managers at fault when flammable vapors weren’t cleared from a chemical tank prior to welding.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the plant $165,000 in May for violations of the Clear Air Act.
At the time, the company announced its intent to begin manufacturing a line of countertops now made in Korea called “Private
Collections,” which the firm pointed out is expensive to ship to large markets in the U.S. Officials, however, were not promised the move would create new jobs.
Ciotta said those plans are continuing despite Tuesday’s news.
The layoffs are expected to affect union and non-union workers and support staff.
Contact city editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 41114.