International Nutrition lays off 25 employees, plans to rebuild plant - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:56 am
International Nutrition lays off 25 employees, plans to rebuild plant

The Omaha animal feed plant that was the site of a fatal building collapse said Friday it has laid off 25 production workers.

Severance pay will be provided to the fired workers, said Steve Silver, president of International Nutrition.

The Nebraska Department of Labor is helping the affected employees apply for unemployment benefits, Silver said.

Workers will get one week of pay for every year they were employed.

Travis Willits, who worked in the shipping department, was among the employees let go Friday.

He said he had worked there seven years, so he'll get seven weeks pay.

"They called us all to a meeting and pretty much told us we were laid off," Willits, 30, said in an interview. "To me, it was out of the blue."

Another laid-off worker, Billy Shuttin, said he had already lined up other job options.

"Life goes on," said Shuttin, 28, who worked in receiving.

The Jan. 20 building collapse at 7706 I Plaza killed two people and sent 10 others to hospitals. At the time, 38 people were working inside the plant.

The company employed a total of 75 people, said Doug Parrott, a spokesman.

"As a result of the recent accident, we have lost our production facility and our ability to produce product," Silver said in a statement. "That is forcing us to outsource production elsewhere.

"Since it will be months before our structure can be torn down and rebuilt, we are left with no other choice but to lay off 25 employees involved in the production process."

"We are continuing to do business as best we can by outsourcing production," Silver said. "This is allowing us to retain employees as we continue to handle customer orders."

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident. Spokesman Scott Allen said Friday that OSHA investigators still are on the scene and are interviewing employees to determine the cause.

Some experts in building structures and grain explosions have said that, based on photographs of the aftermath, a blast likely caused the accident at International Nutrition.

In his statement, Silver said company officials plan to rebuild the plant, "and when production resumes, (we) hope to rehire available employees."

He said company officials' "thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of employees who died in the accident, and with those employees recovering from their injuries." He thanked all employees for their support "during this difficult time."

Willits, the shipping worker, said he plans to start looking for another job rather than hope to be rehired.

"It is what it is, and I'll do what I have to do," Willits said.

International Nutrition's statement

“As a result of the recent accident, we have lost our production facility and our ability to produce product. That is forcing us to outsource production elsewhere.

Since it will be months before our structure can be torn down and rebuilt, we are left with no other choice but to lay off 25 employees involved in the production process. We are providing severance to all affected employees, and our HR department is helping with any questions they may have. Additionally, the Nebraska Department of Labor is helping employees apply for unemployment benefits.

In the meantime, we are continuing to do business as best we can by outsourcing production. This is allowing us to retain employees as we continue to handle customer orders.

We do plan to rebuild the plant, and when production resumes, hope to rehire available employees. I am hopeful OSHA will quickly conclude its investigation and clear the way for us to rebuild and rehire employees.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of employees who died in the accident, and with those employees recovering from injuries. I also would like to express my thanks to all employees for their ongoing support during this difficult time.” – Steve Silver, President, International Nutrition

More coverage: International Nutrition accident

Photos: Accident at International Nutrition plant

Contact the writer: Maggie O'Brien

maggie.o'brien@owh.com    |   402-444-3100    |  

Maggie is a cops and breaking news reporter for Omaha.com.

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