Thirteen unlucky at Univar

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 27, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

At least 13 employees at Univar, formerly Prillaman Chemical on Suburban Drive, got a rude awakening last Thursday when they reported for work. They were told their services were no longer needed.

Dan Manners, branch operations manager of the chemical repackaging facility, said the decision came from the company’s home office in Kirkland, Wash. He said there is another plant only 73 miles away in Richmond and it didn’t make sense to have the two so closely aligned.

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&uot;One of our largest product lines has been discontinued and after we stopped repackaging that product line, we had to eliminate five positions,&uot; said Manners. &uot;Two of those employees were re-assigned to other departments within the same branch.&uot;

Two of the eight employees in administrative positions were offered the option of relocating within the company’s Richmond office.

Manners also noted that most package deliveries have also been terminated at the Suffolk branch of Univar. As a result, a driver and a warehouseman were also laid off. However, no further cutbacks are planned.

Univar’s Suffolk employees were paid two weeks’ severance pay and one week’s vacation pay for every year they worked for the company. Their insurance protection continues until Nov. 30.

&uot;One gentleman had been here 23 years, so he got 23 weeks pay plus the two weeks severance and his insurance,&uot; said Manners. &uot;It’s still hard though after you’ve been in a position that long.&uot;

Patti Conrad worked at the plant back when it was Suffolk Chemical. She also saw it go through four other name changes including Univar.

&uot;I’d been there for 23 years and I was only two years from retirement,&uot; said Conrad. &uot;I appreciate the severance pay and the continued insurance, but here I am… 56 years old and I have to start all over again. I was getting five weeks a year vacation, and now I’ll have to work a year before I even get one week. I’m a single woman with a mortgage and this has devastated me. I just really don’t have any idea of what I will do. The job market here is not good, and besides; I was making about $15 an hour and I know I can’t start out with that at a new job.&uot;

Conrad said she is more fortunate than some. She purchased a duplex apartment building a few years ago and derives some income from that.

&uot;I just don’t know what my co-workers will do,&uot; said Conrad. &uot;I am deeply concerned over them and their families, especially those with children to rear. Our business office manager has a husband who was recently completely disabled and he is not yet getting disability. They have two teen-age children and there are some medical problems to consider. I just don’t know what they’ll do.&uot;

Univar USA is the leading chemical distributor in the United States, providing more chemicals and related chemical distribution services than any other company in the marketplace.

With locations across the U.S., the company is involved with chemical compounding, chemical manufacturing, coatings, inks and adhesives, electronics and precision cleaning, food and pharmaceuticals, forest products, and waste management.

Established in 1924, the company in 2002 had sales of $2.3 billion and employed 3,511 in 120 locations across the U.S.