The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 22, 2013

Johnstown plant plans to close

JOHNSTOWN — Union employees of Johnstown Specialty Castings, located at 545 Central Ave., were told Thursday that the Moxham plant will be closing by the end of summer.

The closing of the plant will lead to the loss of more than 100 employees, including some management personnel.

The majority of the workers, who are members of United Steelworkers, Local Union 2632, Unit 16, were told that the reasons for closing were loss of orders, inadequate capacity and foreign imports.

The plant is owned by WHEMCO, a worldwide supplier of heavy industrial components for the metals, power generation and shipbuilding industries.

The Johnstown plant is a supplier of cast rolls and sleeves, slag pots and custom castings for a variety of heavy industrial applications.

Charles Novelli, president and CEO of WHEMCO, based in the Pittsburgh area, refrained from discussing the closing except to say that the company has met with the union to discuss consolidation of its facilities. He refused to give any details.

Wayne Donato, representative for USW District 10, said he couldn’t be certain of the exact closing date.

“We need to negotiate a shutdown agreement and discuss if transfers to other WHEMCO facilties are possible,” Donato said.

The company issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) on Jan. 23, saying that 36 workers in the melt shop and foundry would be terminated two weeks ago.

Donato said no WARN notice has been filed to the

39 melt shop and foundry employees.

WARN provides protection to employees, their families and communities by requiring employers to give affected employees and other state and local representatives notice

60 days in advance of a plant closing or mass layoff.

Employees were told that the company did not have a good year in 2012 and is in the midst of evaluating its facilities.

“It has been determined that the work done in Johnstown could be done more efficiently in the company’s Midland (Beaver County) plant,” Donato said. “It has a much larger capacity and the products can be made more efficiently with less energy costs.”

Several employees contacted by The Tribune-Democrat declined to comment on the closing.

Donato said Johnstown’s order book is “not what it once was a few years back.”

“Many companies have gone to foreign suppliers,” Donato said. “We were told the plant has become economically unfeasible to operate.”

Production is continuing until details are worked out for a timetable to shutter the plant.

Donato estimates that a handful of employees will be needed to prepare the plant for closing.

“They will need a skeleton crew to clean up and complete work that needs processed for previous orders,” Donato said.

“The closing had nothing to do with labor costs.”

WHEMCO is honoring the existing bargaining agreement, but said any concessions by the union would not prevent the closing.

“We were willing to work with the company to talk about considerations in order to keep the plant operating,” Donato said.

He said no determination has been made on whether the employees would be eligible for Trade Agreements Act (TAA) benefits.

WHEMCO and the Harvard Investment Group of Florida purchased the former Johnstown Corp. in September 2005.

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