COUNCIL BLUFFS — One meatpacking plant closing. One production shift ending. 1,930 jobs gone.
Just two days after John Morrell & Co. said that it would close its pork-processing plant in Sioux City, Iowa, Tyson Foods said Friday that it will end one shift at a Council Bluffs plant and shift some production to facilities in Tennessee and Texas.
The Morrell move, effective in April, eliminates about 1,450 jobs. Losing the second shift at the Tyson plant will lay off about 480 of its 1,300-member work force.
The second shift case-ready production at the Bluffs plant — which packages steaks, roasts, chops, ground beef and other items ready for the grocery meat case — likely will be ended March 22, Tyson said.
The announcement by company officials said the need to control costs and “the continued growth of case-ready beef and pork sales in the southern U.S.” led to the decision to shift work closer to that growth area.
Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan called the announcement “a big loss to the local economy.”
“The meat industry in this area is big for us,” Hanafan said. “This is a big loss, a big loss to the entire metro area.”
Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the decision enables Tyson Foods to make more effective use of its existing case-ready production capacity. The facilities that will take on the work — in Goodlettsville, Tenn., and Sherman, Texas — are closer to the company’s growing customer base, Tyson officials said.
“Our overall case-ready business is operating successfully, and we must continue to control costs and improve efficiencies,” said Gary Sheneman, senior vice president of case-ready beef and pork for Tyson.
“We believe shifting some production from Council Bluffs to our other plants is the right thing to do for our overall business, which continues to grow and diversify its customer base,” he said. “The unfortunate downside is the impact on some of our employees.”
“We believe the Council Bluffs plant will remain an important part of our case-ready beef and pork business and continue to benefit the local economy,” Sheneman said. “In fact, if enough additional case-ready business develops in the Midwest, we’ll consider reinstating the production we’re suspending at Council Bluffs.”
Meanwhile, Tyson said the affected workers will be encouraged to apply for openings within the company and will be invited to a job fair that it plans to host. In addition, Tyson said it will work with Iowa officials to ensure that the employees are informed about unemployment benefits and potential retraining opportunities.
Tyson also has a cooked-meats plant in the Bluffs and a bacon plant in Omaha, as well as facilities in Denison and Storm Lake in Iowa and in Madison and Dakota City in Nebraska.
Tyson Fresh Meats, formerly IBP, began a small, case-ready operation in Council Bluffs in 1999. Production at Council Bluffs grew, and in 2001 the company opened the case-ready plant in Goodlettsville. The Sherman plant opened in 2006.
Tyson Foods Inc., founded in 1935 and based in Springdale, Ark., is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork. The company has about 117,000 workers at more than 400 facilities and offices worldwide.