Koch plans cutback at Seaford location

By Lynn R. Parks

The Invista nylon plant in Seaford is eliminating some of its products, saying that they are not profitable. The company is not saying how many employees will be affected (130 employees work in the area) by the product elimination, all in the staple area. “It is premature to talk about numbers,” said Cheryl Parker, Invista spokeswoman. “While staffing levels will need to reflect these changes in operations, the exact impact of the cost reduction initiative is unknown.” Parker also would not say what products in the staple line will be eliminated. The plant will continue to produce selected products in the staple area, as well as BCF flooring and batch polymer. “While this is a difficult and challenging time for our site and for our employees, the implementation of this plan is crucial to the long-term viability of the Seaford site,” said plant manager Brenda Wilson. Fred Kirsch, president of the Seaford Nylon Employees Council, said that Invista employees were notified of the change Monday morning, by e-mail and letter. He said that company officials did not give any information regarding layoffs, or the future of employees. “They said that they want to have all their plans in place by the end of July,” he said. Kirsch, who was set to begin contract negotiations with the company Tuesday morning, said that there was not much employee reaction to the announcement. “People here have been through so much already,” he said. Negotiations for a new worker’s contract at the Invista nylon plant in Seaford were set to get under way Tuesday. Fred Kirsch, president of the Seaford Nylon Employees Council, said on Monday that he was hopeful that the negotiations would lead to a good contract for its 470 members, despite the fact that wages for some have already been cut at the plant since the takeover by new owner Koch Industries Inc. May 1. Kirsch said that shift workers at the former DuPont Company plant no longer receive 10 percent more than day workers. That 10 percent meant an extra $1.85 to $1.90 an hour for all three shifts. Instead, under Koch, shift workers are paid the regular day pay for the 8 to 4 shift, 50 cents an hour extra for the 4 to midnight shift and $1 extra for the midnight to 8 shift. “Everything is a change” with the new owners, Kirsch said. “Health care, retirement, it is all different. I don’t think we will ever get what we had under DuPont.” Kirsch is also concerned about increased use of forced overtime by Koch, something that workers complained about to PACE International Union representative Rick Massengill during his visit to Seaford last weekend. Massengill told about 20 Invista workers at the Seaford Nylon Employees Council hall on Wednesday morning that their best course of action is to support the union in its contract negotiations. “You need to support your leadership more than ever before,” he said. “You need to tell Koch, ‘We will make a deal. We make the best nylon in the world and we want to continue to do that. In tradeoff, we want you to treat us like people.’” Massengill, whose Nashville, Tenn.-based union represents workers in the paper, allied industrial, chemical and energy fields, was in Seaford to “offer support to Koch workers,” he said, and to “shed light on what DuPont has done to the workforce.”
He was not here at the invitation of the local plant’s union, Kirsch said; the two unions are not connected. PACE does represent Koch workers in two plants, a refinery in Minnesota and a paper mill in Georgia. In addition to forced overtime, Invista workers who listened to Massengill’s talk complained to him about reduced pensions under Koch. Some said that their pensions will be about 25 percent less than what they expected, others said they would be about a third less. “DuPont made this town, and then walked away,” Massengill responded. “And that left folks like you not getting anything near that you thought of as your pension. “It’s not fair,” he added. “But DuPont is not a fair company. It is not the DuPont you knew growing up. It is a greedy monster.” Spirits at the Wednesday morning meeting were low. “When they sold the company, we lost everything,” said a worker who refused to give his name. “Does Seaford have anything that Koch is interested in? Is Koch really interested in talking with us?” “How can you effectively bargain with a company that knows it doesn’t have to give up anything because contractors can take the jobs?” asked another worker, who also would not give his name. But Massengill cautioned the workers that they must remain optimistic. “You guys need to have a positive attitude,” he said. “You want the business to stay, and you need to make the company understand that. They can’t make the quality nylon elsewhere that they can make here.” Massengill suggested that one way to get a company to listen is to bring the community into the picture. “These companies all want to have great reputations in the community, so get church groups and community groups interested in what you are doing,” he said. Kirsch, who expects “quite a battle” during negotiations, said that workers at the Seaford plant are angry with the DuPont Company. “I am thankful that Koch has bought the plant, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But people are angry at DuPont. Most people thought DuPont would never sell. But it didn’t work out that way.” Kirsch agreed with Massengill that worker unity is important in the fight for a good contract. And he believes that his union has that. “We are getting good support from the employees,” he said. “In the past, we have been up against the wall,” he added. “Management and the union often butted heads, and management won in the past. “I hope that doesn’t happen this time.”

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