ConAgra lays off workers ahead of closing

GARNER ConAgra will finish its plant-shutdown in Garner -- that at one time employed more than 750 people in the Triangle area -- by the beginning of summer.

"We have notified 234 employees in Garner that their positions will end in mid-April. The Garner plant is scheduled to be closed on May 27, 2011," said Dave Jackson, spokesperson for ConAgra Foods.

Despite resuming production at the factory in fall 2009 after a fatal explosion months earlier, ConAgra decided not to pump money into repairs and instead is moving the operation to Troy, Ohio.

Four workers died and dozens more were hurt in the blast. Investigators say workers installing a water heater vented natural gas inside the building and it exploded.

"We recognize that closing the Garner facility affects many people, and we want to stress that we appreciate everything that our employees, the citizens of Garner, and area and state officials have done to support us in the wake of the June 9, 2009 accident, to restart production in Garner and to maintain a safe, strong operation over the past 18 months," Jackson said.

ConAgra's decision to close the plant and lay off almost 400 people, left employees stunned.

However, the company is offering the Garner workers severance packages or the chance to move to offices in Ohio or other parts of the country. It will also give the Town of Garner the plant property.

"ConAgra Foods will provide benefits and services, such as severance, outplacement, job retraining and performance incentives to help employees with the transition," Jackson said. "We are committed to treating employees fairly and respectfully and meet our obligations to them based on the completed discussions with the local UFCW."

Slim Jims have been made in Garner for more than 50 years.

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