Honeywell Planning Job Cuts

Richmond, VA, Jun. 2--Honeywell International Inc. is cutting jobs at its Richmond-area operations as the company continues to be squeezed by high costs of raw materials and weak demand for nylon carpet fibers, according to the Time-Dispatch. A Honeywell spokesman confirmed yesterday that the company told local employees last week that it will lay off as many as 100 people, effective June 13. The cuts will affect hourly employees at the company's Chesterfield County nylon plant on Bermuda Hundred Road. The plant employs about 750 people; about 615 of them are hourly employees, company spokesman Rob Norman said. "This is a difficult situation, but it is a necessary response to industry conditions that are beyond our control," Norman said yesterday. "When we consider taking actions that negatively impact employees' jobs, we do so only when absolutely necessary." The Chesterfield plant's major product is nylon fibers for the residential carpet market. The business has struggled because of weak demand from carpet mills and high costs for raw materials such as crude oil. Crude oil prices exceed $40 a barrel today, compared with prices in the high $20s a year ago. The rising cost of crude oil inflates prices for other petrochemical feedstocks that Honeywell uses to make caprolactam, a primary ingredient in nylon. Rising costs have made it harder for the company to compete with other carpet and flooring products such as hardwood, ceramic tile and polyester. The company cut more than 100 positions in October when it closed an older, less-efficient part of its carpet-fiber operation. Norman said all but about 50 of those jobs were eliminated through retirements, voluntary separations or reassignments. Norman said no jobs will be lost at the company's Hopewell chemical plant. It was uncertain yesterday whether any employees might be affected at the company's Colonial Heights technical center. The technical center is part of Honeywell's performance products unit, a different business from the Chesterfield nylon plant. The performance products unit, which makes materials such as Spectra bullet-resistant fiber, is doing well, Norman said. However, hourly employees at the technical center are covered by the same union contract as workers at the nylon plant. Honeywell, an industrial conglomerate based in Morris Township, NJ, reported a profit of $1.32 billion in 2003 after losing $220 million in 2002. Its first-quarter profit was $295 million, up 16 percent from the same period in 2003. Honeywell said this year that it had the equivalent of 1,903 full-time employees in the Richmond area on Jan. 1. That was down from 2,190 in 2003 and 2,438 in 2002.

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