About 170 workers at West Pharmaceutical Services' manufacturing facility in Montgomery learned Tuesday the plant will begin closing procedures starting in January and they will be left without a job.
Beginning after the new year and continuing into the third quarter of 2011, activity at the plant along Route 15 will decrease as production is transferred to other West facilities, mostly in the U.S.
"We are always concerned when plants are closing and people lose their jobs," said Vincent J. Matteo, Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce president. "It's unfortunate but the Chamber is committed to working with the employees and company in bringing new businesses here to make up for the loss of jobs."
The facility, which was acquired by West in 1962, has been engaged in contract manufacturing of molded plastic components and assemblies for consumer-product applications.
"The changing landscapes in the health care and consumer markets we serve require that we regularly evaluate our operations and adapt to changing conditions in order to successfully compete," said Dr. Donald E. Morel Jr., chairman and CEO. "The plans announced today will reduce the manufacturing capacity devoted to product lines that no longer support sustainable, competitive operations, and will unfortunately result in the loss of a number of jobs over time."
The company has reported it will assist in job search, placement and other support activities for the displaced employees.
"These are difficult decisions that fall most heavily on our employees in these locations," Morel said. "We will be providing support that should ease the burden placed on them."
Employees may have a chance to transfer to a different plant in the area, according to Risa Burgess, vice president of Schwartz Communications, which is the public relations agency of record for West.
"Employees will have the opportunity to apply for other available jobs within the company," Burgess said. "West operates two other plants in the Montgomery area - Williamsport and Jersey Shore. We will inform the Montgomery employees of any potential opportunities in these plants."
An employee from the plant who asked not to be identified said he isn't confident in finding another job that will pay as much.
"I'm a little upset. I am in the first batch to lose their jobs," the employee said. "I've been here (a long time) and there's no place in this area that I can make as much money as I do now."
The employee went on to say that the company said if there is an opening at either the Williamsport or Jersey Shore plants, those laid off will have "first dibs at the job." The reason the plant is closing is due to lack of business for the plastic division, according to the employee.
"They called a big meeting, the whole plant, and said they were going to restructure, and they are phasing out the Montgomery plant," the employee said. "They are going to close the door. They expect to be done phasing out the plant in June or July."
Along with the plant closing here in Lycoming County, another West facility will downsize its operations in St. Austell, Cornwall, U.K., which will cause 320 total jobs cut for the company.
Also in Lycoming County, S&K Pallets in Picture Rocks, announced it will close its plant and 18 employees will lose their job. With the holiday season nearing, it's very unfortunate that these workers and their families have to find out about their job loss at this time, according to Matteo.
"It's a disappointment that nothing could be done to save the jobs for people," Matteo said. "Unfortunately, this is when decisions are made at the end of the year as businesses are getting ready for the new year ahead."