Izard jobs moving to China
Ozark Iron Works, the largest employer in Calico Rock, is closing July 15.
Peter Landrum, head of engineering and administration at the company, said the factory is closing because its only customer, Longaberger Company, decided not to renew its contract.
Longaberger, based in Ohio, sells a variety of iron products across the country. Landrum said Longaberger signed a deal with a company in China. "They'll pay their Chinese workers 66 cents an hour and have over 800 workers. People in this plant make from $8 up. There's no way we can compete with that," Landrum said.
The factory had approximately 100 employees when fully staffed but now employs 75, said Landrum. The company has begun laying off workers, he said.
Landrum said Ozark Iron Works applied for but was denied trade adjustment assistance through the Trade Adjustment Act of 1974.
The act gives workers who've lost their jobs to foreign competitors extended unemployment benefits and job training. The unemployment benefits can last up to two years and any recipient isn't required to take a job until his training is complete.
Landrum said the company was denied because the act can only be initiated when the closure of a business is sudden and unforeseeable. "Were in a Catch-22 with the law because we know we're closing and that means we're not technically eligible yet," he said.
He said according to the law, displaced workers from Ozark Iron Works will qualify for benefits when the Chinese company begins manufacturing products for Longaberger.
"That will be too late for some of the workers here because they can't wait around to find another job," he said.
Landrum said the Arkansas Governor's Dislocated Worker Task Force is still petitioning the Labor Department to make an exception on their behalf, but unemployed workers may have to wait.
Ozark Iron Works has been in operation in Calico Rock since July 10, 2003. Ozark Iron Works bought the facility and operation from Stone County Iron Works, which opened its plant in 1995.