Tyson Foods recently announced that it will be closing the Ponca City, Okla. plant and will gradually shift jobs to Cherokee, Buffalo, N.Y., and Houston, Texas.
How many additional jobs in Cherokee remains to be seen, according to a Tyson Foods spokesman.
The Ponca City plant closing will affect approximately 580 workers, who last week were given a 60-day notice as required by law. However, the actual termination of operations and displacement of workers will take place gradually, according to a Tyson spokesman. The closing process will begin in late May and will most likely not be completed until sometime in July or August.
"This is a very difficult decision because it affects the lives of our people, their families and the community; however, it is critically important to our business," said Dick Belsito, senior vice president of processed meats for Tyson Foods. "After extensive consideration, we've concluded closing Ponca City and moving the production to three other plants is necessary to improve the viability of our overall processed meats operations."
Tyson Foods stated that the reason for the plant closing was a part of on-going efforts to improve operational efficiency. Tyson officials are trying to find a buyer for the plant, which has been in operation since 1995.
Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson also added, "Some of the production at Ponca City will be shifted to Cherokee. This will take place this summer; however, it remains premature for us to detail what this means in terms of additional jobs."
The Springdale, Arkansas-based company says it plans to shift production to other facilities in New York, Iowa and Texas. The plant produces a variety of deli-style lunchmeats and ham products and has been operating in Ponca City since 1995.
Tyson officials are expected to meet with the Ponca City workers in the next several weeks to discuss other employment opportunities within the company.
Recently, Tyson Foods had just finished a one-year labor contract with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 179 workers at the Cherokee plant, with a 25 cents an hour raise for production workers and 35 cents for maintenance workers.
Tyson purchased the Cherokee plant in 2002 and has over 500 hourly workers currently employed. The Cherokee plant, which was built in 1965 by Wilson Foods and makes a variety of deli meats and hot dogs, is the largest employer in Cherokee County.