Kerr-McGee Lays Off a Quarter of Its Workforce - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/15/04

Kerr-McGee Lays Off a Quarter of Its Workforce

Kerr-McGee gave dozens of its workers their two-week notice today. The Savannah chemical plant announced it's cutting a quarter of its workforce, laying off more than 100 of its 410 employees, plus an additional 40 contractors who do anything from medical to security work for the plant.

By September 30, about 20 salaried workers and 80 hourly workers will be out of a job. "It's unfortunate for us or anybody to lay off workers," said company spokesman Learnard Dickerson.

Kerr-McGee makes titanium dioxide pigment. It's a substance that makes whites brighter in things like paint, plastics, paper, even the white filling in Oreos.

Basically the plant has two functions. One side makes the pigment from sulfate, other side makes it from chloride. It's the employees who work with the sulfate who will be affected.

"We've noticed over the past several years that there has been a decline in the market for demand and also price for the sulfate product," said Dickerson.

Infrastructure costs at the plant were also a factor.

The news about the layoffs comes as a surprise to many workers. Like the rest of us, they got the news today. "I don't like that because, the people out there need to know ahead of time, because somebody has to have food for their family, you can't work on nothing," said contractor Earl Rowland.

Rowland has been contractor at Kerr-McGee for years. He says he's not really because he's retiring pretty shortly, "but I'm worried about all the other people out there."

For some workers, Kerr-McGee is all the they know. Now they're faced with only two weeks to find a new job. The company says it's giving the salaried employees a severance package and negotiating with the union regarding severance and benefits for union employees.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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