PotashCorp-Aurora layoffs loom

Published 6:39 pm Monday, May 21, 2012

PCS Phosphate Company Inc.’s PotashCorp-Aurora will reduce staffing levels at its phosphate facility near Aurora by approximately 150 full-time positions, or about 15 percent of its current work force.

The layoffs will occur in two phases, according to a news release. Employees will first be offered a voluntary separation package, and if target reductions are not met, involuntary separations will take place. The effective date of the layoffs is June 30.

“Following a review of key operating processes, changes were identified to lower operating costs while maintaining the operational capability of the facility. These changes are necessary to maintain the facility’s long-term competitiveness in a global marketplace,” reads the news release issued by the company Monday afternoon.

“We started notification at 4 p.m. (Monday),” said Ray McKeithan, manager of public affairs and governmental affairs for PotashCorp-Aurora, in an interview Monday evening.

“This is a difficult day for our employees and our company,” said Steve Beckel, general manager of PotashCorp-Aurora, in the release. “As a company, we never take these decisions lightly. However, remaining competitive for the long term is in the best interests of both our community and our company.”

“Many employees are being affected by this decision. We will work to help them make a successful transition,” Beckel said in the news release. “While it is regrettable that we must take these actions, PotashCorp-Aurora is committed to this community and North Carolina for the long term.”

McKeithan provided more information about the layoff packages.

“The way it’s working is we have volunteer (termination) packages. So, the hope is we’ll have enough of those accept the volunteer reduction — because they are generous packages — so they will be able to do what they want to do afterward. They’ll have to make a decision on what works best for them. We’ll help any employee after they leave.”

McKeithan attributed the layoffs to increased competition in phosphate production.

“The main reason is competition. There’s a lot of global competition in the phosphate business that’s coming on line. Obviously with increased competition, there’s more supply, which affects the price of our products. So, we have to try to operate as efficiently as possible. We’ve taken many steps over several months to increase our efficiencies. The sad part is it’s regrettable we have to take these actions,” he said.

McKeithan said the decision about the layoffs did not come easy.

“Whatever we do, our thoughts are with employees. It’s s a difficult day for us because we know we are going to lose 150 good employees who are part of our family,” McKeithan said. “That’s the most difficult part of this.”













About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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