Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Daramic Calls Back Employees

About 25 operations employees at Daramic Inc. have been called back to work, and the plant has experienced a turnaround, company officials say.

The company also has announced that it sees "a strong possibility for continued growth in 2011."

Plans also call for hiring more engineers and other local professionals, according to a corporate document.

"A lot of positive things have happened," said Gerard Gaudry, Daramic's site manager. "We went through some rough times, and we just wanted the community to know that things are getting better."

Daramic's records show the company now has 104 hourly employees and 37 salaried.

Layoffs from January through March this year totaled 47 hourly and five salaried workers.

The plant at 5525 U.S. 60 East makes battery separators. It lost a large domestic customer in 2008 that resulted in less production and job eliminations.

The Owensboro company is part of North Carolina-based Polypore International, which operates in nine countries on six continents.

In 2009, the recession hampered plans to improve the Owensboro company's competitiveness, officials said.

The company's restructuring announcement in November 2009 said half of its 180 workers would be laid off in January of this year. At that time, there was a possibility the plant would close. In fact, most of the plant was idled.

"Amid uncertainties, all the Owensboro employees regrouped and developed a renewed sense of urgency with a new result-oriented attitude," the corporate document states.

The company lists several "dramatic performance improvements" including 100-plus days without an incident, 98 percent on-time delivery and above target productivity.

"The Owensboro plant has consistently met production goals and lowered operating costs below target," the announcement said.

The improved performance creates new opportunities such as shipping the battery separators to Asia, a demanding and fast-growing market.

"New product launches in North America are under way to increase the Daramic market share by differentiating our products from the competition," officials said.

The 50-year-old local plant opened as a division of W.R. Grace and became Daramic in 1994 with 226 employees listed.

Daramic was unionized in 1961 with the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 726 representing members.

More than 160 union members went on strike from Aug. 6 to Sept. 30, 2008.

Derrick Griffin, vice president of Local 726, said the union is very happy about the call-back.

"We would like to see all of them called back," he said. "The company has indicated that production will pick up toward the end of the year or the first of next year, and more could go back to work."

Griffin said he didn't have his list in front of him, but about 30 to 40 people remain laid off.

Joy Campbell, 691-7299, jcampbell@messenger-inquirer.com