Joyce Marie Taylor
Jasper — PotashCorp White Springs announced today that the second phase of layoffs at their Suwannee River Chemical Plant, which will be permanently closed, has been completed, according to Public Affairs Manager Mike Williams. A total of 56 employees, 45 wage and 11 salaried personnel, were notified personally by their supervisors or managers today that they were being laid off, which is 44 less people than what was initially predicted last December, Williams added.
Personnel impacted in this second round of layoffs are from the following counties: Hamilton, 11; Columbia, 18; Suwannee, 20; Madison, 1; Lafayette, 2; and Valdosta, Ga., 4. These employees will work through June and July and will be officially laid off in August with appropriate severance packages and job assistance programs.
Williams said the Hamilton County Commissioners were also personally notified today. An official announcement will be made at tomorrow's county commission meeting in Jasper.
“This is a difficult day for our employees, their families and our company,” said PotashCorp White Springs General Manager Bill Donohue. “These necessary changes do not reflect on the talents of people impacted by these decisions. We have an exceptional group of employees across the company, and these changes mean that we will lose a number of very capable and dedicated people who we sincerely thank for their contributions. We will do our best to assist those affected.”
On Dec. 3, 2013, PotashCorp announced company-wide operational and workforce changes at all of their facilities, including White Springs. The decision stemmed from a review of business and operational needs that affected all three segments (potash, nitrogen and phosphate) and the changes were undertaken to enhance the global competitive position of the company.
A press release at that time stated challenges in the global phosphate market and an increased regulatory burden were what made the move necessary and what forced the closing of the Suwannee River Chemical Plant. The new operating level is expected to extend the life of the existing phosphate rock mine by approximately five years. The Swift Creek Chemical complex, mine and mill will continue to operate and White Springs will maintain about 389 positions at the facility.
The Suwannee River Chemical Plant was one of two plants at the White Springs facility. The first round of layoffs last December resulted in a reduction of 248 people and a change in management with Bill Donohue taking over as general manager. The second round of layoffs on Monday, June 2, left another 56 people out of a job for a cumulative reduction of close to 50 percent from previous employment levels.
Williams said in January this year, “the effects on Hamilton County as a whole should be minimal.” He also said PotashCorp will still be a major employer for the county with about 350-400 employees, as well as be a major taxpayer and community contributor.
The original 248 personnel impacted by the layoffs were: Alachua County-1; Baker County-2; Columbia County-91; Hamilton County-68; Madison County-2; Suwannee County-71; and Echols/Lowndes County, Ga.-13. Of the 248 personnel laid off, 27 percent lived in Hamilton County and 28 percent lived in Suwannee County.
“I want to stress the importance of keeping the safety of our people at the forefront” said Donohue. “Nothing we do should jeopardize this, and I encourage all our employees to be extra diligent through this transition, so that everyone goes home safely at the end of each and every day.”