FMC Corp. to lay off up to 65 at Curtis Bay

Company to consolidate facilities at chemical plant

October 16, 2002|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

FMC Corp. said yesterday that a weak economy and global competition is forcing it to consolidate operations at its Curtis Bay plant and lay off between 60 and 65 employees.

The Philadelphia-based chemical maker is combining three facilities that make herbicide and pesticide ingredients within the Baltimore plant so that they can be operated as one. The changes will begin in early January and are expected to be completed by April.

"We're struggling like many other chemical companies in the weak economy, and we are competing on a global basis, and in order to compete we have to look at ways to become more cost-competitive," said plant manager Michael Sheffield.

The layoffs will be nearly evenly split between salaried and hourly employees. The company and United Steelworkers of America Local 12517, which represents hourly employees, worked out a severance package yesterday. Details were not disclosed.

"This is going to be the change we need to make at this point in time to make us competitive," Sheffield said. "It should be enough to keep us moving forward in the future."

Last year, FMC posted a loss of $338 million on sales of $1.9 billion, compared with a profit of $111 million in 2000 on sales of $2 billion. The Standard & Poor's 400 materials index, of which FMC is a member, is down 24 percent from the 52-week high it reached in mid-May.

"In this particular case, at this particular time, I believe they're doing what they have to do," said Bob Falk, president of the local union. "Things are bad now in the [chemical] industry and you can't expect them to be the one company making out OK."

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