The Bekaert steel wire plant in Rome.

Employees at Bekaert in Rome have been informed of plans to shut down a portion of the plant that could result in the loss of more than 50 jobs, IUE/CWA Local 83190 President Tim Horton has confirmed.

Several calls to the company corporate offices in Rome were not returned.

Horton said employees first learned of the impending shutdown right after Labor Day, but indicated that there had been rumors about potential cutbacks for months as a result of economic conditions.

Horton said the reduction in force will impact the tire core and ISC lines at the plant, and the shut down could come before the end of the year or perhaps stretch into the first quarter of 2020. The bead wire section of the plant, where the wire is manufactured for use largely in passenger vehicle-sized tires, is not impacted by the impending shut down.

Employees who are 59 years of age and over with at least 10 years of service are being offered early-out retirement packages.

The number of employees who will actually lose their jobs will depend on the number that take the early-out packages.

“There are about 30 that are eligible for the early out,” Horton said.

The Rome plant is the only one of the Bekaert plant in North America where employees are represented by a union. Other U.S. plants are located in Rogers, Arkansas; Shelbyville, Kentucky and Orrville, Ohio.

Horton said the Rome employees probably have the highest wage scale among the four U.S. plants.

The union and Bekaert inked a new five-year contract in the summer of 2017.

In August 2015, the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority approved a bond resolution for upgrades to the plant, estimated that time to be a $16 million investment, which followed a major fire in November of 2014.

The company received an eight-year three-tiered tax abatement program with a Payment In Lieu of Taxes arrangement that requires the company to maintain at least 120 full-time jobs.

It is not clear at this point if the job reduction will bring the company under that level.

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