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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Shutdown looms at Philips Lighting plant in Bath

  • The closure of the Philips Lighting plant in Bath - originally expected to happen by the end of 2013 - was delayed a few months, but the last day of production will be March 28, according to Philips Lighting spokeswoman Silvie Casanova.
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  • BATH | The closure of the Philips Lighting plant in Bath - originally expected to happen by the end of 2013 - was delayed a few months, but the last day of production will be March 28, according to Philips Lighting spokeswoman Silvie Casanova.
    Plans to close the plant on State Route 54 were first announced by Philips officials on Dec. 5, 2012.
    At the time, there were approximately 280 employees, including 215 union workers, employed there.
    Some have left to take other jobs or been relocated by the company, and there was a round of layoffs around the end of 2013, local officials say.
    There are currently 225 employees left, according to Casanova.
    Most of the union workers are staying to the end, said Matthew Pelletier, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1013T.
    “It’s been a long road,” Pelletier said. “They announced this 16 months ago.”
    Pelletier said there’s been “a mixed bag of emotions” among the workers. He says some are more ready for the closure than others, but it’s been tough for everybody, he said.
    For the time being, the workers will get by on severance packages and unemployment checks. The average worker has about 25 years service, and many will be eligible for early retirement under the terms of the union contract. But the pension likely won’t be enough for most, meaning they’ll still have to look for other jobs, Pelletier said.
    And it’s not going to be easy to find comparable work, he said.
    “There’s just not a lot of jobs around here,” he said. “There’s not much going on. I think a lot of people will have to leave the area.”
    Pelletier credited the union workers with handling the impending shutdown professionally.
    “They’ve gone above and beyond. They’ve been diligent and conscientious about their jobs,” he said.
    He also said management at the Bath plant has done a good job of trying to help the workers, setting up workshops and a job fair.
    “Over the course of the next couple weeks, the state Department of Labor and their rapid response team is having a number of workshops at the facility to assist the dislocated workers,” said Jamie Johnson, president of the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency. “They’ll have overviews on unemployment insurance, health care insurance, other financial services.
    They’re trying to cover the gamut and provide whatever resources these individuals that are going to be laid off are going to need.”
    After production stops at the end of March, there will be a small team at the plant for a few months to handle the process of closing the facility, from paperwork to removing equipment, Johnson said.
    Page 2 of 2 - After that, Philips Lighting will likely put the 65-year-old factory up for sale, Johnson said.
    Before Philips sells the property, the company plans to do a cleanup under the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, Johnson said.
    “It’s not like a Love Canal cleanup,” he said. “It’s some heavy metals and other things they found in the soil surrounding the facility.”
    Employment levels at the plant - at one time as high as 850, Pelletier recalled - have gradually dropped over the years as product lines have been phased out.
    The shutdown is because the type of lighting products still made there - used in stadium lights, fishing vessels and other commercial applications - is becoming obsolete, company officials say.
    In an email to The Leader, Casanova said the plant makes high intensity discharge products and halogen components, and said the shutdown was “a result of the long-term evolution taking place within the lighting industry, and the move toward more controllable, digital lighting technologies.”
    “Reductions in workforce are always a difficult decision,” Casanova added.
    Philips Lighting has shut down a half-dozen other plants in the U.S. in recent years, shifting production to its facilities in other countries, according to online media reports.
    Philips Lighting is one of three major divisions of Netherlands-based Philips, which employs 114,000 in 100 countries, according to its website.

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