130 to lose jobs as FMC closes Curtis Bay plant

BUSINESS DIGEST

June 22, 2007|By Allison Connolly | Allison Connolly,Sun reporter

FMC Corp. will shutter its Baltimore plant over the next 10 months, putting 130 workers out of jobs.

The Philadelphia-based company, which makes insecticides and other agricultural chemicals, has decided to move its Curtis Bay operations to Asia because it's cheaper and closer to sources of raw materials.

The plant makes ingredients for various products and faces growing worldwide competition from generic brands, Frank Siwajek, director of North American operations for FMC Agricultural Products, said yesterday.

"It's really driven by cost pressures," he said. "Yes, electricity costs are a problem, but so are labor costs and health care."

Workers were told of the closing early yesterday and were surprised, said Jim Strong, subdistrict director for United Steelworkers District 8. The district includes Local 12517, which represents 71 employees at Curtis Bay. Strong said the union had a good relationship with management and workers were meeting the company's expectations.

The company said the average worker made $50,000 a year with overtime and other benefits. Strong said production workers who earned an average of $24 per hour will be hard-pressed to find something comparable.

"Being a union that represents the manufacturing industry, we know these jobs are hard to find," he said.

Strong said he is scheduled to meet with company officials today to schedule bargaining over health care, pensions and holidays.

The closure will cost the company between $125 million and $135 million in estimated pretax charges to income from continuing operations during the next five quarters, beginning in the second quarter of this year, an FMC spokesman said. However, it should save the company $6 million this year and as much as $30 million by 2009.

FMC plans to redevelop the site to lease or sell to another company, Siwajek said. FMC has manufactured chemicals there since about 1953.

allison.connolly@baltsun.com

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