Tyson lays off poultry workers in North Carolina

Dive Brief:

  • Tyson Foods has laid off workers at a poultry processing plant in North Carolina in response to weak customer demand, a company spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.

  • The nation’s largest meat packer reduced the number of second shift positions at its Tyson Wilkesboro complex, according to an email to Agriculture Dive. A Tyson spokesperson declined to verify how many workers were affected, though local station WBTV reported last week that an estimated 250 workers were expected to receive layoff notices.

  • Several employees have moved to the first shift or transitioned to other available positions at the Wilkesboro plant, the spokesperson said. In August, Tyson said it would close four poultry processing plants as a cost-saving measure.

Dive Insight:

Meat producing companies have struggled this year with volatile commodity prices, inflation and waning demand. JBS SA, Smithfield Foods and Tyson reported net losses in the latest quarter after navigating through tough market conditions.

“After careful consideration, and in response to customer demand, we have reduced the number of positions on second shift at the Tyson Foods Wilkesboro complex,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email. “We realize the impact on our team members and supporting them is our priority.”

More than 2,700 people work for Tyson in Wilkes County. Andrew Beal, communications manager for the North Carolina Division of Workforce Services, said in an email that a WARN notice from Tyson has not been filed, “but we are aware of the situation and our NCWorks team is working to assist affected employees.”

This year, Tyson announced the closures of six chicken processing plants to shore up its business. While the Arkansas-based company has made efforts to help the affected workers find new jobs, a number of rural communities are feeling the impact of Tyson’s withdrawal.

“We were able to offer team members working the second shift the opportunity to take other positions at the Wilkesboro plant and already, many are moving to the first shift,” spokesperson said in an email.  “They can also apply for positions at other Tyson Foods facilities.”

According to a report from WBTV, Tyson is the town’s largest employer and these cuts are likely to be felt by other businesses in the area. Wilkesboro has a population of 3,687, according to 2020 census data.

Other agriculture giants have closed facilities or announced layoffs to cut costs. Smithfield will shutter 35 hog farms in Missouri, affecting 92 workers. Last month, Deere & Co. said it will lay off 225 workers from its Harvester Works combine factory in northwestern Illinois.

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