SCM Baltimore plant may lay off up to 150 Paper industry slump hurt production

August 03, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

SCM Chemicals may lay off more than 100 people in Baltimore as part of a plan to cut back production of a chemical used in white paint, paper and plastics, company officials said yesterday.

SCM, a Hunt Valley-based subsidiary of Hanson PLC of London, is reducing by a third the capacity of a plant in South Baltimore that uses sulfuric acid to make titanium dioxide.

Louis H. Kistner, an SCM spokesman, said the company is just beginning to make the reduction, which could take months.

The possibility of retirements and job changes based on seniority mean it's not clear who or how many people will lose their jobs. Finally, Kistner said, job losses might deepen if the market worsens.

"It could be well under [100] or as many as 150, depending on how conditions develop in the future," he said. The change is necessary because of weakness in the domestic paper industry, a huge consumer of the type of titanium dioxide manufactured by the sulfate plant, said Kistner.

The plant employs about 300 of the company's roughly 750 workers at SCM's Hawkins Point site. Most of the company's other employees work at the site's chloride plant, which uses chlorine to make another form of titanium dioxide.

The United Steelworkers union, which represents the largest number of workers at SCM Chemicals, did not return calls seeking comment.

The cut in capacity at Hawkins Point is part of companywide program to respond to difficult market conditions.

The difficulties include low demand for titanium dioxide, in-

creased supplies, consolidation in the paint and coatings industry, and high raw-materials costs, company officials said.

SCM Chemicals, which moved its headquarters last month from Baltimore to Hunt Valley, is closing a small sulfate plant in Stallingborough, England. The company is delaying expansion of chloride plants in Stallingborough and in Australia.

Whether SCM will make additional cuts depends largely on the market's reaction to an expected price increase in titanium dioxide.

SCM's parent, Hanson PLC, an industrial giant built through acquisitions in the 1980s, announced in January that it was splitting into separate companies.

When the spinoff is complete, SCM will be part of Millennium Chemicals Inc.

SCM had sales of $858 million and profits of nearly $170 million in the fiscal year that ended in September, according to company officials.

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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