Honeywell Plans Cuts at Virginia Nylon Plant

Chester, VA, September 30--More job cuts are likely on the way at a local Honeywell International Inc. plant, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The company said yesterday it has proposed cutting 300 jobs at its Bermuda Hundred Road plant. The plant employs 660 people and manufactures nylon fibers used in residential carpets and resins used in the plastics industry. The company wants to shut down the factory's fiber conversion and spinning operations, which use older machinery and are less efficient than the same operations at other Honeywell plants, the company said. In a statement, the company said it is "discussing" the proposal with the union that represents hourly workers at the plant, Teamsters Local 101. A phone message left at the union office yesterday afternoon was not returned. Employees were notified yesterday, according to the company "In a situation like this where we are proposing a shutdown, it is considered a proposal until we actually sit down and talk with the union," said Rob Norman, a local Honeywell spokesman. The company wants to close the operation on Dec. 19. It would be the third round of job cuts in a year at the Bermuda Hundred plant, which employed about 875 people one year ago, and about 1,500 four years ago. The company said last October it was cutting 110 hourly jobs at the plant and 10 salaried jobs. It announced 100 more cuts in May. Honeywell, a New Jersey-based industrial conglomerate, said earlier this year it had the equivalent of 1,903 full-time employees in the Richmond area. In addition to nylon, the company makes the specialty fiber Spectra, which is used in bullet-resistant vests, at a technical center in Chesterfield County, and it owns a large plant in Hopewell that makes caprolactam, a basic ingredient in nylon production. The job cuts at the Bermuda Hundred Road would affect hourly and salaried workers. The plant would have about 350 employees remaining, and it would continue to make nylon polymer chips for the carpet industry and extrusion grade resins for plastics makers. The job cuts at the Bermuda Hundred plant have come in part because Honeywell has three other plants in South Carolina that can make the same product at a lower cost. In early 2003, Honeywell acquired the nylon-fiber business of BASF, Europe's largest chemical company, for $80 million, and created a new business unit. At the time, Honeywell said the acquisition would strengthen its nylon business and enable it to run its Hopewell plant at full capacity. The acquisition gave Honeywell plants in Anderson and Clemson, S.C., in addition to a plant in Columbia, S.C., that it already owned. The company said those plants use a more efficient manufacturing process in which nylon polymer is spun, drawn and texturized in one machine, rather than the two-step process used in the production line at the Bermuda Hundred plant. The cuts are "part of an effort to consolidate our fiber manufacturing capability into those facilities that use the newer, more cost-efficient fiber manufacturing technology," Norman said. The business also has been affected by carpet makers producing nylon fiber on their own. "This is a difficult situation, and as difficult as this is, these proposed actions are a response to industry conditions that are beyond our control," Norman said.

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