DuPont details plant changes

By Bryant L. Richardson

DuPont site manager C. Bland Dickey on Monday announced that the Seaford Nylon Plant will be curtailing some of its operations. Dickey said the purpose of the press conference was to provide an update on the "modernization taking place at the Seaford Nylon Plant." Plans for major changes at the plant, which would result in a reduction in the number of employees, were first announced in 1996, so the news that the DuPont payroll would be reduced by 540 employees did not come as a surprise. The news that helps soften the blow for Seaford and the surrounding areas is that while some of the plant's production capacity will be curtailed, modernization of other plant assets will continue. "To help keep the plant viable we will modernize part of our batch polymer equipment, enabling us to compete more effectively in that business," Dickey said. "While the announcement was made years ago that the changes would occur about this time, this will still be a difficult period," Dickey said. "The lives of some very special people will be affected."
Shutdown of equipment has already begun and is expected to continue through the end of the year, at which time all scheduled shutdowns will be complete. Most of the excess jobs will be eliminated in the fourth quarter of this year. To soften the impact DuPont is offering retirement packages to long-term employees and career transition packages for shorter-term employees. DuPont's Career Transition Program severance package includes a month's pay for each two years of service, with a minimum of two-month's pay and a maximum of one-year's pay. Additionally, there is a year of health and dental care coverage, a $5,000 re-skilling reimbursement, and a relocation benefit. "We expect to have a significant number of employees volunteer for this severance package, as there are many that are at or near full pension eligible. This will help minimize the number of involuntary separations," Dickey said. In partnership with the Delaware Economic Development Office, employees are also receiving help with skill assessments, outplacement counseling and job search for external employment opportunities. A significant number of employees are expected to volunteer to leave the plant with a severance package. Separation from the plant rolls will begin in July and continue through the end of the year. "Even though we have known of this change since 1996 and we expect a significant number of volunteers, this reduction of force will be particularly difficult for all of us. "It is, however, absolutely necessary to address our business needs," said site manager C. Bland Dickey.

"All of the Associates who will leave have made significant contributions to our business. We are committed to making the changes necessary to keep the facility competitive while doing everything possible to support all of our employees during this transition," he added.
The changes at the Seaford plant will begin in late May when textile operations will be shut down. Textile is used in making apparel. The equipment used to produce textile yarn at the Seaford plant is 30 years old. New textile production equipment has been installed at other DuPont locations. Also, 40 percent of the carpet fibers operation will be curtailed. Some Seaford employees may apply for positions at the other DuPont sites, including those in Richmond, Va., and Old Hickory and Chattanooga, Tenn. "Nylon is a very competitive business," Dickey said. "At one time DuPont produced 100 percent of the world's nylon. Now it produces 5 percent."
Dickey said DuPont will continue to run the Seaford plant for many more years to come. He said Seaford will become a mega-polymer production plant. The polymer flake is a plastic-like material that can be used to produce a wide variety of products, everything from clothing and carpeting to auto parts. The raw materials will be shipped into Seaford and shipped out as polymer flake to other DuPont plants. Dickey said Seaford is a good site for the polymer process because of its excellent research and development team at the site and because of the equipment already in operation. "There are no plans to shut down the Seaford Plant as it continues to have an important role in support of several DuPont businesses. "DuPont has invested several million dollars in recent years to improve the plant's ability to manufacture nylon and to protect the environment. This modernization of our batch polymer business is an example of that commitment."
A reduction in contractual employees will also be a result of the changes taking place at the Seaford plant. Cutbacks in the number of contract employees started last December and many of the cuts have been made already, Dickey said. The number of cuts including those already made will total 270. Seaford's announcement came as part of a larger global communication by DuPont. The company, headquartered in Wilmington, cited a need to improve competitiveness, address continuing economic slowdown and adapt to ongoing structural changes in some industries as the reasons for streamlining.

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