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ONEIDA CLOSING BUFFALO DISTRIBUTION CENTER; 90 JOBS BEING CUT

Oneida Ltd. will close its Buffalo distribution operations in July in a cost-cutting move, erasing 90 jobs and severing the last link to its former Buffalo China unit, according to a regulatory filing.

Closing the operations will cost $3 million, including $1.65 million to break property leases, Oneida said in a filing at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week.

The operations include a company-owned warehouse on Bailey Avenue and a leased building on Genesee Street, a spokesman said.

The central New York tableware company said in March that it was considering closing the operations. Oneida said it would seek a cost-cutting plan from the glassworkers' union, but held out little hope of success.

"They would have had to basically work for free," to meet cost reduction targets, spokesman Wilbur Allen said Thursday.

The glassworkers' Local 76A in Buffalo, which had represented Buffalo China, will go out of existence after the warehouse closes, a union official said.

"The company said it wanted to save $2.5 million (annually) -- there was no way we could do that," said Richard Klein, communications director of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union near Philadelphia.

Oneida spun off its Buffalo China dinnerware plant adjoining the Bailey Avenue warehouse a year ago.

Niagara Ceramics, current owner of the plant, doesn't expect to make an offer for the adjoining warehouse, president Robert Lupica said.

After a year in operation, NiagaraCeramics has 250 workers and is developing ceramic tile and industrial products to supplement its dinnerware business, he said.

Oneida opened the Bailey Avenue warehouse in 1999 with the help of public incentives, including $1 million in state grants and $1.8 million in anticipated breaks on sales and property taxes over several years.

The company doesn't expect to have to repay the development grant made more than five years ago, Allen said.

Oneida will relocate its distribution from Buffalo to its existing facilities in Sherrill, N.Y; Miami, and Chino, Calif. The move concentrates Oneida's warehouses in coastal locations following its decision last year to shift most production to overseas contractors.

Severance benefits for employees will cost $1.2 million, the SEC filing stated.

Employees are working hard to meet the July shutdown goal, Allen said. Of the 90 workers remaining in Buffalo, about 75 are union members.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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