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Latest News - November 2013

November 9, 2013
Union says Corning to cut 181 members in Wilmington
Wayne Faulkner

Wilmington is getting hit hard by Corning Inc.'s layoffs.

The United Steel Workers union said Saturday that 181 of its members would be cut by the company as of Dec. 9 and that as many as 30 percent of salaried employees could be affected as well.

Corning said in a statement Thursday that it would cut 250 people worldwide in its optical fiber business but would not be specific what locations would be affected.

It now appears that Wilmington will see the lion's share of those cuts.

The company cited market conditions for optical fiber, which the Wilmington plant on North College Road makes.

Representatives of Corning could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

“It is a sad situation, especially when a handful of the hourly employees just returned from a layoff a few months ago,” Wilhelmenia Hardy, president of USW's Local 1025, said in a statement Saturday.

Hardy said she understood that no other locations would lose employees “but may be impacted with equipment down time worldwide.”

“The (salaried) workforce could be impacted by 30 percent,” Hardy said, explaining that the figure includes transfers or restructuring within the plant, and not necessarily job cuts.

Hardy said that the union had filed a petition under the federal government's Trade Adjustment Assistance Program that helps U.S. workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade. It provides opportunities to obtain skills and resources necessary to be re-employed.

“People love their jobs here at Corning's Wilmington location,” Hardy said, adding that the work force here is especially experienced in getting “the job done and the products to our customers under any circumstances.” For that reason, Hardy said it wasn't clear why the cuts were made at the Wilmington plant, “known (to be) the center of new technology.”

Corning made substantial layoffs in Wilmington in 2001 and has cut its work force other times since then, including last year, but the company has also hired back workers and employs 1,000 here.

Mayor Bill Saffo made that point Saturday, remarking that Corning has rehired in the past.

The Wilmington plant is the largest optical fiber plant in the world, Saffo said, so it is going to be affected by the market for the product.

“I've seen over the years that when the market changes Corning rehires people,” he said. “It's tied directly to the world market.”

“We're disappointed when the private market impacts us in such a way as the Corning layoffs,” said New Hanover County commissioners Chairman Woody White. “But we can continue to work together with our regional partners to encourage businesses to move here and grow here.

“It's tough when you see DAK and Corning make decisions to reduce their work force or shift work to other plants,” White continued. “It's very tough. We feel bad for the individuals affected,” he said.

White referred to the decision by DAK Americas to close its Navassa plant this fall, putting about 600 out of work.

And Corning's layoffs were the second jolt to Wilmington industry just this week.

On Wednesday, Invista announced that it was laying off 100 workers as it halted production of a key product at its plant on U.S. 421 North. Additionally, Mundy Maintenance Services and Operations said it was laying off 97 of its contract workers at the Invista plant.

Corning said in its statement Thursday that the layoffs were coming because of market conditions.

“We expected the worldwide fiber market to grow 5 percent to 10 percent in 2013,” said Corning spokeswoman Monica Monin. “However, we now believe the market will be consistent with 2012. Because the market isn't meeting our growth expectations, we will take actions to reduce capacity.”

Though the company said the market was not as strong as expected, it opened a new optical fiber manufacturing plant in India in September.

Last November, the company announced it planned to lay off 500 employees worldwide as a result of the depressed economy, but it would not break out where the cuts occurred.

In 2009, Corning cut its work force here by about 100 workers as part of a 13 percent overall reduction in its worldwide employment.




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