HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) - Unilever announced Friday that it will close its Breyers Ice Cream factory in Huntington by the end of July.
Dave Altman, the union workers' representative at the factory, said the last day of production will be July 19. All employees will continue to work the next week, and about a dozen people will work the rest of July.
Many of the union workers made $20, or more, per hour.
According to Altman, on Friday, negotiations began on how long employee benefits will last after their employment ends.
The Huntington factory is the oldest Unilever building in the country, according to Altman. Altman told NewsChannel 15 that it needs $20 million in upgrades. He said Unilever figured out it could save $11 million if it closed the plant.
"Sales were soft, and when they ran all the numbers, they said we actually have three packaged ice cream lines too many," Altman said."
The factory only produces packaged half gallon ice cream, while the other Unilever factories make that product, along with others ones. "We were kind of doomed from the start," Altman said. "We only made one thing."
"Even if the union workers here worked for free, the company would still have too many production lines running," Altman told NewsChannel 15.
Altman said he has always been told by Unilever that the union workers in Huntington were the "most efficient and most reliable" inside of the Unilever company.
"They're the ones who really worked hard," Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters said. "They've been great corporate citizens through the years."
The factory has been the home to a list of dairy and ice cream businesses over the years. Fetters said the building is more than a century old, and that Unilever invested approximately $6 million into the factory within the past four years.
"Sad to seem them go," Fetters said. "However, Huntington continues to have success economically.
Fetters said the unemployment rate in Huntington is lower than Indiana's average.
A spokesperson for Unilever gave the following statement Friday:
Unilever today announced it will be closing its Huntington, Indiana ice cream factory with production activities concluding by end of July, 2013. The action is being taken to address spare capacity among Unilever U.S. based ice cream plants.
The decision will affect approximately 140 salaried and hourly employees at the Huntington factory, where the company manufactures Breyers packaged ice cream.
City officials told NewsChannel 15 that they'll work on finding another ice cream or dairy company to move into the plant.
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