WEST LIBERTY, IOWA – Officials with West Liberty Foods recently notified more than 50 workers in overhead and support positions that their positions would be eliminated.
According to information from Dan Waters, chief legal officer for West Liberty Foods, 25 people at its West Liberty, Iowa, plant were laid off, 17 people at its Bolingbrook, III., facility and 12 people at its Tremonton, Utah, plant.
The company currently employs about 1,018 workers in Iowa, 570 in Illinois, and 641 in Utah and does not anticipate additional layoffs.
Waters also explained that the reduction in force did not eliminate any production positions. Weekend crews at its Utah facility were offered weekday shifts.
“Respect and care for people are core values of our company,” Waters said. “Although we are taking steps to make their transitions easier, we will be parting ways with some exceptional people through no fault of their own. We value their contributions and deeply regret the need for this action. For the past several months, our team worked to cut costs and improve efficiencies in order to avoid the need to eliminate positions. But we can’t responsibly remain fully staffed while production operates at a reduced capacity.”
Waters added that during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the labor shortage that followed, West Liberty needed to scale back production, allocate available products among existing customers and turn away new business. This left the company with more supervisory, clerical and sales positions than needed to support reduced production and employment levels.
West Liberty added that it would offer outplacement services including career counseling, job search skills development, locating employment and assisting with unemployment insurance claims along with other resources. Additionally the company would provide severance pay in accordance with the company’s reduction-in-force policy.
In its notice, West Liberty stated clearly that its operation in West Liberty is not in danger of being closed and the core business remains strong. Waters stated that new sales volume is coming to their plants.
“However, much of that new business has high capital requirements, long equipment lead times, and long supply lead times,” Waters said. “As a result, we are currently not operating at full capacity on the further processing side of our business. When we do not run at full capacity, we must reduce our overhead expenses for the short term.”
Even with the changes in the workforce, West Liberty said the reduction would not affect its plan to build a new turkey processing plant.
“We continue to process the same number of live turkeys each year,” Waters said. “We still plan to build a new processing plant when our industry’s business climate and interest rates improve.”
West Liberty Foods produces nearly 650 million lbs of food products each year for grocery stores and restaurants across the United States, placing it among North America’s top 50 protein processors. The company raised about five million turkeys annually.