Swift recruits laid off Morrell workers

IOWA - Swift & Co., looking to fill positions made vacant by last year's immigration raids at its meatpacking plants, has sent recruiters to Sioux City in the wake of layoffs at the John Morrell & Co. plant.
calendar icon 16 February 2007
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At a downtown hotel Tuesday and Wednesday, Swift interviewed applicants for production jobs at its beef plants in Worthington, Minn., and Marshalltown, Iowa, and at its Grand Island, Neb., pork plant. The company plans to hold three more open houses in Sioux City next week, company spokesman Sean McHugh said Thursday.

Swift scheduled the sessions after John Morrell announced last week it intends to shut down the second shift at its Sioux City pork slaughter plant on Monday, temporarily laying off 485 employees. The company blamed the closing on "unfavorable market conditions."

With the layoffs anticipated to last some time, at least some displaced workers are expected to seek employment elsewhere.

"For workers, given the central location of the (Morrell) facility to three other Swift facilities, we thought it'd be a great opportuntiy to speak with experienced and qualified individuals who may have been affected by the announcement and who might want to pursue opportunities at Swift," McHugh said. "The fact we were here this week and plan to come back next week I think speaks of our interest in people in the area."

Of the three Swift plants sponsoring the open houses, Worthington, just across Iowa's northern border, is the closest to Sioux City, about an 80-mile drive. At each plant, hourly wages start at $11.50.

The estimated number of prospective applicants who attended this week's open houses at the Clarion Hotel was not immediately available.

Warren Baker, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1142, which represents union employees at the Morrell plant, said Thursday most displaced workers would prefer to stay in the area.

"It's tough on anybody to uproot their family and move someplace," he said.

Baker said Smithfield, which owns John Morrell, also has dispatched recruiters to the Sioux City plant to gauge displaced workers' interest in transferring to the Sioux Falls Morrell plant or other Smithfield facilities.

Greeley, Colo.-based Swift, the nation's third-largest meatpacker, lost 1,282 employees, or about 10 percent of its work force, after wide-scale immigration raids at its six plants on Dec. 12. McHugh said the company is making steady progress filling the positions.

"In general terms, we've been very pleased with the application rates we've seen," he said. "Nearly across the board, those rates are 50 to 200 percent higher than we'd normally see."

Source: Sioux City Journal.com

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