The Unilever ice cream plant in Hagerstown will close its doors for good on July 27, leaving 391 hourly and salaried employees without jobs, a company spokesman said Tuesday.
Jeff Graubard said news of the closure was no surprise. “They’ve known about this beforehand,” he said.
Unilever officials told employees in 2009 that the plant at 1100 Frederick St. would close around the end of 2011, but that date was delayed.
Then, in September 2011, the company announced plans to close the plant in August 2013.
Graubard said Unilever was negotiating with United Steelworkers Local 9386, which represents workers at the plant, on whether to issue severance packages.
“There’s no agreement just yet,” he said.
Larry Lorshbaugh, the president of United Steelworkers Local 9386, said Tuesday that he’d rather wait until after a meeting is held at the plant Wednesday before he comments.
Graubard said the manufacturing jobs will be transferred to other Unilever facilities in the United States.
He said the company hasn’t announced the locations of those facilities.
“This in no way affects the dedication or performance of the plant,” Graubard said. “We appreciate the work of our people down in Hagerstown.”
For many years, the plant was known as Good Humor-Breyers for the ice cream brands that were produced there. Good Humor-Breyers are Unilever companies.
The employees will be eligible to receive job training after the factory closes, said Peter Thomas, executive director of the Western Maryland Consortium, a work force development agency.
Thomas said he recently met with plant managers and union officials in an effort to make the transition as smooth as possible. He said an orientation will be scheduled to inform the workers about their options.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to be helpful to the workers,” Thomas said.
He said the workers will be eligible to receive up to six months of unemployment.
Consortium officials will recommend that workers further their job skills while they’re still drawing an income, Thomas said.
Some of those job-training possibilities include earning certificates or licenses, such as a commercial driver’s license to drive a tractor-trailer.
“I think this is an opportunity for people to look around and see where there’s a demand,” Thomas said.
“This really is a time for people to do some homework and get a handle on what they want to do.”
Unilever was listed as the 19th top employer in Washington County in 2011-12, according to the 2012 Business & Industry Directory, a publication issued by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.
Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.