The wife of a decades-long employee of Pactiv phoned him Tuesday with the bad news that the Chippewa Falls plant was closing by January 2013, putting 170 people out of work.
The woman said one of her co-workers told her the Pactiv plant was closing.
“I called my husband and that’s how he found out,” said the woman, who did not want her name used because her husband intends to stay with the company at 1500 West River St. until the polystyrene foam manufacturing plant closes.
“I feel so sad for him and all of the other people,” she said, adding that she was upset some workers had not been told by the company of the closing.
“It’s too bad this particular employer feels that these people are just numbers,” she said.
The company disclosed the closing in a two-sentence statement to the press Tuesday morning.
Tori Berndt, communications manager for Pactiv, said employees were told of the plant closing at an employee meeting Tuesday morning.
“They were reaching all shifts,” she said, adding, “Our plan is always to communicate with our employees first.”
Berndt did not have information on whether employees at the Chippewa Falls plant will be offered severance packages or jobs at other Pactiv facilities. When the company laid off 29 workers in January 2010, it did not offer those workers severance packages.
Pactiv Corporation calls itself the world’s largest manufacturer of foodservice disposables and food packaging. It says it has about 12,000 employees at 55 manufacturing facilities worldwide. Nine of those plants are unionized, PlasticsNews.com reported.
A man who has worked for more than a decade for Pactiv but did not want his name used because he remains with the company said the Chippewa Falls plant’s contract with the United Steelworkers Union expired in February and had not been renegotiated.
“I am totally shocked,” the man said of the decision to close the plant. He said workers were informed of the decision at a 6:30 a.m. meeting, and there was no mention of offering the employees a severance package.
“I enjoyed the time there. I enjoyed the people there. It was a good atmosphere,” he said. The man, who is in his early 50s, said he worries he might not be able to find another job locally and potentially lose his house.
“I hate to see another company leave Chippewa Falls. We’re getting to be a dead zone,” he said.
The Chippewa Falls Pactiv plant makes food service and food packaging products. Other Pactiv plants make Hefty products, including waste bags, slider storage bags, disposable tableware and disposable cookware.
“Production equipment and products at Chippewa Falls will be transferred to other Pactiv facilities based on the needs of customers and the business,” the company said.
“There are a lot of folks who are impacted in our community by this news today. This is certainly a loss for the community,” Chippewa Falls city council member Brian Flynn said.
“We are a very diverse community with many types of employers. We recently started adding jobs again in the last year or so with the EOG processing plant, (and) the addition at Premium Waters,” said Flynn, who added the city will lose out because Pactiv is one of the largest consumers of city water.
From Aug. 1, 2011 to Aug. 1, 2012, Pactiv paid the city $29,000 in water, stormwater and industrial wastewater costs, said Connie Freagon, utility office manager for the city. She said Pactiv is not in the top five of the city’s water users.
Mayor Greg Hoffman said Pactiv has been an excellent partner in the community.
“It’s devastating to those losing their jobs,” he said, adding that he hopes they will be able to find jobs in the community.
Hoffman said the demand for the products the Chippewa Falls plant was producing changed, and that the company had considerably more workers years ago.
Chippewa Falls has seen job growth at EDI, Premium Waters and EOG Resources, he said.
“We have a lot of companies that are expanding. I’m confident that something will move in there,” Hoffman said of the West River Street building.
Pactiv began in 1965 as Packaging Corporation of America and then Tenneco Packaging Inc., becoming Pactiv in 1999.
Pactiv came to Chippewa Falls after acquiring the former Amoco Foam Products plant.
Reynolds Group Holdings, Limited acquired Pactiv for $6 billion in November 2010. It is a subsidiary of Rank Group Ltd. That company was founded by Graeme Hart, a New Zealand billionaire, according to The Times of Northern Indiana.