Half of required DuPont layoffs to be satisfied with volunteers

By Lynn R. Parks

Nearly 300 employees of the DuPont nylon plant in Seaford have volunteered to give up their jobs in the company's latest round of layoffs. According to Gary Knight, human resources manager and site engineering manager at the Seaford plant, 271 employees have signed up for the company's voluntary separation package. The deadline to do so was last Thursday. "That number is higher than we anticipated," Knight said. "We are very pleased with it." The 63-year-old plant is set to lay off nearly half of its current 1,200 employees. By the end of the year, 510 hourly workers and 30 salaried workers will be gone. According to Knight, layoffs of the volunteers will begin this month. "We are going to let some of them go at the end of May," he said. "These are people who have other job opportunities." The second round of layoffs will be complete by June 30. Nearly all of those will be of employees who have volunteered to leave. Knight is not sure when the remaining layoffs will occur. Maybe late in the third quarter, perhaps even in the fourth quarter, he said, depending on when the machines in the textile apparel division are shut down. Textile apparel production will be taken over by DuPont plants in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Monterey, Mexico, in accordance with a plan announced in 1996. When the Seaford machines are shut down will depend on demand for the textile as well as the other plants' readiness for production.

Half of the flooring, or BCF, component of the factory has already been eliminated; its production will be assumed by plants in Waynesboro, Va., Camden, S.C., and Kingston, Ontario. The Seaford plant will still make staple fiber and about half the carpeting it makes now. It will also continue to produce nylon flake, some of which it will use to make the fiber and carpet and the rest of which it will ship to other plants. Knight said that employees were notified Friday how many people had volunteered for the layoffs. Employees were also told whether they are among the 269 who are slated to be laid off after the volunteers. Those with the shortest times of service will be laid off first. In addition, most of the employees who will be staying were told what their jobs will be. Some jobs that are now being done by outside contractors will be filled by DuPont employees. DuPont was bargaining with the union regarding salaries for those jobs, as contracted workers are typically paid less than DuPont employees. According to an agreement with the union, those salaries will remain at the higher level, Knight said.

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