Business

Smithfield Foods closing Clayton facility, laying off all workers there

A forklift operator at the Smithfield Foods processing facility in Clinton in 2014. Smithfield Foods has filed a notice with the N.C. Department of Commerce saying it will close a distribution center in Clayton and lay off all workers there.
A forklift operator at the Smithfield Foods processing facility in Clinton in 2014. Smithfield Foods has filed a notice with the N.C. Department of Commerce saying it will close a distribution center in Clayton and lay off all workers there.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information about the company’s Tar Heel facility.

More than 100 employees will be laid off at a Smithfield Foods distribution center in Clayton as the company plans to permanently close the facility at the end of October.

The company said the employees can apply for jobs elsewhere in the company, including at a new distribution facility it is opening in Tar Heel, where it has a pork processing plant that employs about 5,000 people. The new facility is about 80 miles south of the Clayton distribution center.

Smithfield said the new facility would be hiring for about 250 jobs. Smithfield, which is owned by China’s WH Group, is also expanding its cold storage facility at Tar Heel.

The company is investing $100 million in the Tar Heel expansions, according to a statement from the company. When the projects were announced in 2017, Smithfield said both would be completed in the fall of 2018.

According to a notice sent by Smithfield Fresh Meats Corp. to the N.C. Department of Commerce, the first wave of layoffs in Clayton will come Oct. 7.

About 18 warehouse operators will lose their jobs at the Smithfield facility on that day. An additional 83 employees will be laid off there on Oct. 21. That wave of layoffs will affect positions ranging from billing clerks to shift operations managers to warehouse supervisors.

Following those layoffs, only one worker, a refrigerator mechanic, will remain employed there. That worker will be laid off on Oct. 31.

Smithfield notified the Department of Commerce of the upcoming layoffs in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, which requires companies to give a 60-day public notice of mass layoffs.

The department received Smithfield’s WARN notice Aug. 31., meaning that the first two waves of layoffs planned by the company fall before the 60-day public notice requirement.

The company stated in its notice that “all laid off employees will receive their normal hourly wages/salary and benefits” through Oct. 31.

“We regret the circumstances that made this layoff necessary,” senior director of human resources Katrina Ryder said in the WARN notice.

Early last month, a federal jury decided that Smithfield, which is owned by China’s WH Group, owed $473.5 million to neighbors of its three industrial-scale hog farms in Pender County. The decision was based on a lawsuit submitted by six neighbors over nuisances related to odors, flies and rumbling trucks.

North Carolina has seen 8,666 employees laid off through WARN notices in 2018. North Carolina’s 2018 WARN summary can be found here.

NC Business News Wire is a service of the UNC Journalism School.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

  Comments