Worker deals with layoff

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

MEADOWS OF DAN — Employees let go from a large manufacturer in Meadows of Dan wonder where their next job is going to come from.

People laid off from RotoMetrics foresee long commutes, or maybe even having to move to find an open position.

"The production of solid dies will be consolidated to RotoMetrics’  Eureka, Mo., headquarters facility, where 85 percent of North American solid die production occurs today," said a company press release from February. "The consolidation of this segment of the business provides RotoMetrics the opportunity to capitalize on its substantial investment, capabilities and capacities for solid die manufacturing at its Eureka, Mo., facility."

Though one plant will be idled at the Meadows of Dan facility, the other will remain RotoMetrics' "center of excellence for its flex die manufacturing process," an area where the company  — a leader in "precision rotary tooling for the printing and converting industries" — foresees continued growth.

RotoMetrics has made significant investments in the flex die business at Meadows of Dan, the press release said.

Unanswered questions remain for employees like Travis Hall, who received notice on Feb. 12 alongside his coworkers at a mandatory company meeting.

Questions like: Do the 90 laid-off workers qualify for retraining assistance from the federal government?

He's looked at the posting that went up for the jobs placement assistance after his manufacturing position was eliminated.

Most of those were temporary positions, he found. "Now who wants a temp agency job? Look at the distance you've got to drive for most of those jobs."

Many employees, a lot of whom hail from Carroll County, like Hall, or even as far west as Galax, wonder — in the face of a crippling recession and a dramatic decrease in traditional textile and furniture industries in the region — where their next job will come from?

Hall knows one ex-RotoMetrics employee who will now have to commute to Mount Airy, N.C., to go to work.

Most employees that the company let go have been there a long time — more than 18 years — and yet, of those kept, many have held jobs there for less than two years.

"I thought we were safe," Hall said. "We've got more skilled jobs than what's been sent to Mexico — I guess when it comes to big business, it doesn't matter."

He blames NAFTA for companies sending more jobs out of the country.

Closing the solid die manufacturing plant is costing people that Hall's worked alongside for a dozen years their jobs. He knows a married couple who both worked at RotoMetrics, and now they'll both have to look for a new job at the same time.

Hall's situation isn't as bad, as his wife has a good job in the health care industry in Forsyth County, N.C.

That gives him some time to find out if he will qualify for re-training assistance. "If you're smart, you'll find something in the health care field."

That also means that the Hall family already depends on one job out of the area.

"She's been driving," he said. "We may have to sell our house and move down there where all the jobs are."

And Hall and their three boys are lucky in another way — they can get on her insurance plan.

If anybody works in a company that brings in "lean management" consultants, Hall warns employees of that place to immediately start looking for another job.

He believes that the actual purpose behind hiring the consultants was to find out how the process worked at the Meadows of Dan plant, so the company could implement it at another location.

Though company officials have said they want to expand the remaining flex die manufacturing business at Meadows of Dan, Hall wonders why they just didn't transfer some of the laid off workers into that part of the business. "Why not take some of these people and train them for that?"

Hall has filed a complaint with the labor board on how RotoMetrics pays overtime. He's noticed that the company has ramped up overtime since announcing the closure.

What's been most upsetting for these laid-off workers is that company officials had assured employees that no changes were coming to the plant and the workers would still have jobs, but Hall remembers that the annual reviews for raises were supposed to happen in January, but then got delayed until April, after the announcement of the layoffs.

That was done to save on severance costs, Hall believes.