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Air quality rules costs 100 plus jobs

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POSTED November 14, 2013 1:22 a.m.

LATHROP – After 51 years the Pilkington glass plant will close its doors.

In a release that was posted for employees on Tuesday, Nippon Sheet Glass – the Tokyo-based parent company that oversees the operation – informed employees that the combination of required repairs and pollution-control equipment will essentially price them out of business.

More than 100 workers keep the plant operational, and production is set to cease in February of 2014.

United Steel Workers Local 418B President Jim Gulbronson wrote on the union’s website that the economic downturn of 2008 hit the plant hard and derailed a planned $100 million overhaul that would have taken care of the air pollution requirements set to go into effect on Jan. 1.

“While the company was able to get a three-year variance back in 2011, time has run out and the company has decided to shut the plant down,” Gulbronson wrote. “The local and International union will be meeting company management over the next few weeks on a closure agreement. It’s a shame that real good manufacturing jobs like we had here will be gone forever.

“Should any employers in the area be interested in hiring good employees, early next year you’ll have your chance.”

The plant – which started as the Libbey-Owens-Ford float glass manufacturing facility – was a one-time major supplier to Detroit auto manufacturers and shipped glass panes to companies all over the globe. Last year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of operations, the company opened the doors to the facility to family members and guests, and showed the operations process from furnace to finished product.

The closure of the NUMMI manufacturing plant in Fremont – the joint automotive manufacturing facility owned by General Motors and Toyota – dried up the demand for the Lathrop site’s need for automotive glass production, and it ceased shortly after the Bay Area facility shuttered in 2010.

“It meant a lot to the community – as a 51-year old company is one of the two oldest in town and its sad news that it’s going away,” Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said. “It wasn’t an issue with the City of Lathrop but an issue that they had with the State of California and other environmental concerns, and it’s unfortunate.

“So our work starts today. We’ll do everything humanly possible to bring these jobs back and reach out to other companies to see if somebody can step up and fill that role. Anytime our city loses a job, it’s a sad day for us.”

Nippon Sheet Glass is a publicly traded company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. After the company purchased the UK-based Pilkington in 2006, according to its website, it became one of the largest glass companies in the world. 

The statement that issued by the company noted that production of glass products will cease in February of 2014, but additional operations will continue through August of 2014.

“The decision was made after careful review,” the statement read.”The Lathrop facility is due for repair in the near future and new environmental regulations effective Jan. 1 dictate that pollution control equipment must be installed to meet the new standards.

“Unfortunately, the required investment is not economically feasible in light of the current market conditions.”

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