Subscribe to USGNN!

USGNN Original StoryExit Strategies for Closing a Plant the Right Way

Republic Windows and Doors' announcement on Wednesday December 3 that it would cease operations the following Friday wasn't taken lightly by employees. Given only a couple days notice, workers staged a sit in demanding their severance and vacation pay. According to union officials, such short notice represented a violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which protects workers, their families and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. In the end, workers and Republic reached a $1.75 million settlement.

Gene Grabowski, a senior vice president with Levick Strategic Communications based in Washington, D.C., said that because of the current economic conditions he expects to see even more plant closings and lay offs in 2009. When it comes to these situations, there are three vital steps employers and owners should follow.

"First, is communicating with the employees who may remain, whether they are in the closing plant or other locations," says Grabowski. "It's vital that they are your first audience. Be transparent and honest with them about what's going on … and give them more information-not less-in these circumstances."

The next step, Grabowski says, is communicating with the community in which the plant is located, because closing a plant will affect many people in that area.

"Speak to them as though they are family; be open and compassionate," Grabowski says, adding to also keep in mind that news travels fast and will stay with the company, even years later when it may be considering opening a new plant in another nearby community. "Be aware of those existing and future circumstances [surrounding the closing of a plant]."

The third key is being aware of how you communicate with the media and Wall Street (if it applies).

"Make sure that the messages you communicate with the media are the same as what you've told your employees and your community," he says, explaining that you may speak to the different groups with different words, but the story needs to be the same. "Multiple messages are a disaster, so be consistent."

CLICK HERE to read more tips from Levick Strategic Communications.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
CLICK HERE to subscribe to USGlass magazine.