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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Philips: No layoffs before plant closes

  • While there is no hope Philips Lighting will reverse its decision to close its Bath plant at the end of 2013, a Steuben County agency has been assured the factory’s employees will all be there when the shop doors close.

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  • While there is no hope Philips Lighting will reverse its decision to close its Bath plant at the end of 2013, a Steuben County agency has been assured the factory’s employees will all be there when the shop doors close.
     “Both the CEO, and the local plant manager have committed to me there will be no staged layoffs,” said Jamie Johnson, executive director of the county Industrial Development Agency. “They have no plans to lay off anyone before they close.”
     The plant, which now employs 280 workers, announced two weeks ago it would shut down the facility at the end of next year. Of those working at the plant, approximately 215 are union employees.
     Johnson recently spoke with Netherlands-based Philips executives about whether SCIDA could do anything in terms of tax-incentives or other services to help the light manufacturer stay on at the facility on State Route 54.
      But the problem is an “over-capacity,” Johnson said. “It’s not wages, it’s not taxes, it’s not energy costs. They just have aged products nobody’s buying.”
    Johnson said he did not know whether that overproduction would lead to Philips closing any other plants in its global base.
    However, according to the Warsaw Business Journal, Philips announced Wednesday it will lay off 316 workers at a factory in Pila, Poland, as it reduces its production of traditional light bulbs. The Polish factory now employs 3,056 workers.
    The announcement of the Bath plant closing sent shock waves through the small community, despite rumors of a shut-down for years. It also followed on the heels of other signs of a struggling local economy.
     In late September, Sikorsky announced it would close its helicopter facilities in Big Flats by the end of the year, and 575 people would lose their jobs.
    In mid-November, Corning Inc. laid off 100 hourly workers at its diesel facilities in the Corning area, citing a decline in demand for its products. Union officials there said it hoped the layoffs would only be temporary.
    And the day of the Philips announcement, Bombardier in Kanona gave notice to the state Department of Labor it may lay off its 35 workers within the next couple of months. Those layoffs also are expected to be temporary.
    Johnson said SCIDA will continue to work with Philips in an effort to attract potential buyers.
    “But this all just goes to show what I’ve been saying all along about diversification,” he said. “It’s better to have 10 businesses employing 20 workers than one employing 200.”
    Union officials at Philips declined Wednesday to speak with The Leader.

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