Oscar Mayer plant in Madison prepares to close

Markets Associated Press

The already dwindling number of employees at the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison will continue to shrink as the facility prepares to permanently close in the first quarter of 2017.

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The company that produced processed meats for decades and once employed more than 4,000 people is scheduled to close by the end of March 2017, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/2imrz7V ) reported.

"We are planning a meeting ... sitting down with some business leaders here in the city, just discussing the future of the site and what may be done with it, from a technical standpoint," Mayor Paul Soglin said.

He added that planning what will replace the site is a priority, but he also said it could be 10 years before the site opened again with a new identity.

Parent company Kraft Heinz announced in November 2015 that it would close the Madison operations as part of a restructuring that will shutter seven plants in North America. About 1,000 people worked in the local offices and factory at the time.

Company spokesman Michael Mullen said there are 450 employees left today. Of those employees, about 50 intend to transfer to the Davenport facility, where they will have bumping rights over the Iowa employees. A clause in the union contract for the company states if Madison's Oscar Mayer facility closes, then its workers have the right to take over a job that's held by a worker with the least seniority at the Davenport facility.

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Many other employees have chosen to retire, with some drawing pensions of $2,000 a month or more. And the employees who are at least 50 years old and have worked for the company at least 20 years can get a double-pension, with some qualifying for a $750 additional bonus.

"We sincerely thank our employees for their hard work and commitment to the facility. As always, we remain committed to treating our people with the utmost respect and dignity," Mullen wrote in a statement.

Doug Leikness, president of Local 538 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said he's been told more than 325 jobs will disappear through February.