The local area received another volley of bad news Thursday as the suspected loss of jobs at the Carriage House Talcott Street facility in Dunkirk took a big step forward. Ralcorp Holdings Inc., the current Carriage House owners, presented union and local company officials with the required 90-day layoff notice under the state's Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Act provisions.
According to the WARN notice details posted on the state Department of Labor website, 118 employees will be affected with layoffs occurring within 14 days of the closing date of April 5. The notice also states the reason for the closing is economic.
According to a release from Ralcorp, the closure is due to a re-allocation of manufacturing to maximize capacity and capabilities at other facilities within the United States. The layoffs will affect both hourly and salaried employees.
OBSERVER Photo by Matt Panebianco
Workers at the Carriage House facility located on Talcott Street in the city of Dunkirk were notified Thursday that most of them will be laid off as of April 5.
The Talcott Street facility will remain open with a limited number of workers operating freezers and tanks at the site, according to Thomas Dickerson, the president of Chapter 266 NCFO/ SEIU32BJ, the union which serves workers at the local Carriage House facilities.
"Ralcorp gave us the WARN Act on the Dunkirk plant. They will cease production on April 5," Dickerson said Thursday. "They're keeping the building and a few people will remain down there running the freezers and the tanks. The senior people in the Dunkirk plant will be allowed to come and bump in at the Fredonia plant."
The union has a total of 439 members, counting both those working at the Talcott Street facility and the Carriage House on Newton Street in Fredonia. The union's contract with Carriage House expires in 2015.
With more than 100 members eligible to bump, the end result will be fewer full-time employees.
In addition, most of the Talcott Street management employees will be out of a position.
The Talcott Street plant, which produces pourable and spoonable dressings and sauces, was closed Thanksgiving week, with more than 100 employees being told not to report to work. It reopened the following week but now seems on its way to a different use.
The remaining employees will be working for a new company shortly when ConAgra completes its $5 billion purchase of Ralcorp. Although there has been no word on the Fredonia facility, Dickerson was optimistic about its future - for now.
Local government leaders have met with Ralcorp officials over the last few months in an attempt to find out what could be done to keep Carriage House open.
Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the city had not received prior notice of the closing.
"Our main concern right now is what can we do to retain as many jobs as possible, work with company officials, not only Ralcorp, but the ConAgra individuals that have just purchased the Ralcorp corporation," he said. "We're out there continuing to explore the avenues and hopefully find some positive ones."
Dolce was asked what the city can offer.
"In terms of dollars we're really not the ones to talk to, but we're here to do whatever we can to help with those jobs, to help keep the plant going in some way, shape or form, while we continue to meet with the politicians higher up our food chain," he replied.
Dolce added he sent a letter to ConAgra officials shortly after that company purchased Ralcorp.
"We are in the very early stages of this news but we are going to be in constant contact with individuals at the company, locally and higher up, to see if there's anything we can do to pre- April 5."
County Executive Greg Edwards has been more involved with the company through the efforts of the county's Industrial Development Agency. He was asked about Ralcorp keeping the Talcott Street facility for warehousing.
"It is been something that has been talked about although I do not know what Ralcorp or ConAgra plans long term. But, certainly I know from working in this arena intimately and consistently over the last seven years that we have a need for more food-grade warehousing," Edwards replied. "The existing companies need more warehouses that are capable of housing food products, so that would make sense but I do not know what Ralcorp or ConAgra's intentions are for warehousing."
Edwards said he has gathered a team of elected officials to try to contact Ralcorp and ConAgra at a county and state level and impart how serious the region is about keeping the positions in the area. He also said the county's resources will be available for those who will lose their jobs as a result of the closing.
Along with Carriage House, Ralcorp also owns Petri's Baking Products in Silver Creek.
Ralcorp officials issued a press release Thursday stating the company announced plans to close its Silver Creek and Dunkirk manufacturing facilities. "The closures eliminate aproximately 375 positions. Both are due to a re-allocation of manufacturing to maximize capacity and capabilities at other facilities within the United States," the release read.
When reached by telephone, company officials said they would have nothing further to state beyond the press release.
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