US dairy Dean Foods has announced a fresh round of lay-offs at its Evart, Michigan-based Liberty Dairy plant – the latest signal of its intentions to call time on production at the facility.
Earlier this week, the Dallas-based firm issued Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices to employees, union representatives and government officials relating to the loss of 54 jobs at the Liberty Dairy plant.
The announcements come just a few months after the plant’s main customer announced the acquisition of its own dairy plant operations.
In March 2012, Michigan-based retailer Meijer announced that its newly-acquired Purple Cow Creamery – named after its in-house ice cream shops – would produce milk in gallon and half-gallon sizes for the 101 Meijer stores in Michigan.
Prior to this announcement, milk produced for Meijer represented 90% of the Liberty Dairy plant workload.
Dean Foods anticipates that by the end of February 2013 it will no longer be “economically viable” to continue operations at the Liberty Dairy plant.
Production end 2013
“The job cuts come as a result of significant volume losses that have already occurred and will continue to occur at the plant in coming months,” said a Dean Foods statement.
The lay-offs, which will be completed in October and November 2012, will reduce the plant’s total workforce to around 60.
It will continue to operate with its remaining employees, but Dean Foods expects production at the plant to end in the first half of 2013.
“Dean Foods currently anticipates it can maintain one shift of production volume at the plant until February 2013, after which time the plant will likely cease production and operate solely as a distribution branch,” said the statement.
“The job cuts are occurring due the fact that a large customer representing more than 90% of the Evart plant’s production volume has terminated its production needs at Evart and is integrating milk processing and distribution into its operations,” it added.
Not “economically viable”
The Liberty Dairy plant opened in 1934 and has been operated by Dean Foods for more than 40 years.
Dean Foods’ Fresh Dairy Direct business president Gregg Tanner has voiced regret in the decision to lay-off more Liberty Dairy plant employees
“We sincerely regret this difficult decision and the impact it will have on our dedicated employees and the community of Evart,” said Tanner.
“By early next year, however, we anticipate it will no longer be economically viable to operate the Evart plant, and we are significantly reducing the plant’s production this year.”