Last updated: June 01. 2013 12:24PM - 243 Views
Keith Strange
Staff Reporter

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Decreased production and the current economic downturn have resulted in what promises to be a less-than-merry Christmas for dozens of area families as the Mount Airy operation of Hanesbrands Inc., announced 60 layoffs this week.

But a company official said they waited as long as possible, hoping for an upturn in demand.

According to Matt Hall, a spokesman for the company, the Mount Airy sock knitting operation has been operating with “rolling layoffs” for some time.

“Our production level isn’t enough to keep the employees working full time, but we’d hoped that since we have come through some price increases that dampened the amount we needed to produce that production would pick back up,” he said. “But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“It looks like next year is going to be comparable to this year, and rather than continuing to run on a rotating layoff basis we’re going to have to take the work force to the level that can work full time.”

The layoffs will take effect in January, Hall said.

Currently, there are 270 employees at the Pine Street facility, including 250 hourly employees and 20 management positions. The cuts will drop that number to 210 employees.

But Hall said increased production in the company’s Patrick County, Va., facility could mitigate some of the sting.

“We’re hoping to take any volunteers to our expanding fabric plant in Woolwine, Va.,” he said.”We already have a number of employees in the Mount Airy plant who live in Patrick County. If they’re interested they could transfer and that would free up someone from having to lose their job in Mount Airy. We’re planning to offer anyone who loses their job in Mount Airy the top of the list for the new positions in Woolwine.”

According to the spokesman, the jobs in Woolwine will be similar in pay, but may not be exactly the same as workers were making in Mount Airy.

“I suspect the pay will be comparable, but it’s a different job so they would get the pay rate for that position,” he said. “It’s going to largely be on an individual basis. We wouldn’t expect someone to volunteer to go to Woolwine if they were going to lose money.”

“Our severance policy calls for severance in cases of full plant closures,” Hall said. “In case of partial layoffs, employees are eligible to be reinstated when openings occur, such as when there are retirements, turnover or other things that result in openings.

“So the employees in this case will be placed on callback lists to fill openings as they arise in Mount Airy, and they will be put on the list to fill openings for new jobs being created in Woolwine, Va.”

He added that the job cuts during the holiday season are hard on everyone.

“We’ve done everything feasible to keep everyone, and have held off as long as we could hoping production levels would go up, but it’s been a tough situation with temporary layoffs,” Hall said. “It’s unfortunate, but we’re between a rock and a hard place.”

Hall said it is unlikely the employees will be called back to work.

“There’s always a chance, such as if people were to leave and we needed employees, but once you go to the extreme of laying people off and paying severance, it’s usually permanent,” he said. “But nothing’s set in stone.”

Reach Keith Strange at kstrange@heartlandpublications.com or 719-1929.

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