Waynesboro's largest employer, Invista, is laying off hundreds of workers and shutting down part of its plant. Invista gave the news in a series of meetings starting late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. When added with contractors laid off last week, more than 400 workers could be without a job.
Just before noon Wednesday, an Invista spokeswoman confirmed that the company met with employees in what is being called a 'restructuring' of the plant. About 210 Invista employees and an undetermined number of contractors will be out of jobs beginning this week.
Several workers leaving the overnight shift early Wednesday morning were given word of layoffs coming. Workers say management told them the layoffs will be based on years of service and some of them could be out of a job within the week.
Invisita says it will idle its nylon production division for at least six months. But details of who stays and who goes are still unknown.
Waynesboro City Councilor Nancy Dowdy says employees weren't the only ones left out in the cold; so was city council. "We were not notified of this. We had no indication from the company that this was coming," stated Dowdy.
But city leaders say even this temporary idling is a troubling sign of tough economic times. "We all need to buckled down and understand that the recession is hitting Waynesboro," said Dowdy.
Waynesboro Vice Mayor Frank Lucente said, "Now the Valley is starting to suffer and this shows the depth of what is beginning to happen."
City officials say layoffs at Invista will force cuts across Waynesboro. "The rest of the community, this will probably instill a bit of a wake-up call and they will cut back also," predicted Lucente.
At full operation the Invista plant employed about 1,100 people. Last Friday, the Mundy Companies announced layoffs of 132 of its contract workers at Invista between now and the end of the month.
Invista Waynesboro plant manager Mike Laczynski said the layoffs and idling are a direct result of the drop in demand for nylon used in carpet-making. He says the economy and housing slump are to blame for that. "Producing a product where we're spending money on raw materials, energy, etcetera with no sales revenue opportunity will not allow us to be financially strong," stated Laczynski.
Laczynski says Invista wanted employees to hear the news from the company before notifying the city Wednesday morning.
The layoffs hit two of Waynesboro's largest employers even though its just one plant. Invista, which used to be DuPont, is now owned by Private Limited Company. They're first on Waynesboro's list of biggest employers. Mundy Companies, the other part of layoffs at the Invista plant, is listed as the 5th largest employer. Click here for a list of the top 50 employers in Waynesboro.
Timeline - Invista in the News:
December 5, 2008: Waynesboro Invista plant announces 132 contract employees will be laid off through the end of December. Nearly half of the employees had been furloughed in September when work slowed down.
March 31, 2008: Invista sues Dupont in $1 billion federal civil suit for problems left at the Waynesboro plant by Dupont. Decades ago under Dupont, the Waynesboro plant faced several fines for illegal dumping of mercury in the South River. In the suit, Invista claims they had to clean up other problems such as boilers not being in compliance with fire safety regulations and wastewater discharge systems in Waynesboro.
February 2, 2007: Invista restarts spandex production operation and creates 50 new positions, mostly spinning operators. The operation was scheduled to start in June. At the time, Economic Development Director Meghan Williamson said, "This is very much a result of changing market conditions that were positive for the Waynesboro plant. In some cases, the city and office of economic development certainly do work with industries to provide incentives and really close the deal to allow them to come to the city." In 2007, Invista was Waynesboro's largest employer with nearly 600 people on payroll.
2005: Invista lays off 100 workers when it ends its spandex operation.
2004: Koch Industries buys Invista. Invista buys the textile part of Dupont, including the Waynesboro plant.
2003: Invista splits with chemical maker Dupont.