PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Hundreds of workers at the Smithfield Foods plant in Portsmouth are bracing for layoffs, but don't know when to expect pink slips.
In November 2011, it was announced the company would be cutting more than 400 jobs from the plant. The cuts were planned for this week, but workers were given a temporary lifeline.
"They keep changing the date. They keep moving the date back so we don't know for sure," Smithfield worker Johnnie Peeples said.
The world's biggest pork producer said the Portsmouth plant built in the 1970s can no longer support the manufacturing technology changes and product development necessary to meet the company's needs.
They're preparing to open a new, $80 million state-of-the-art alternative in Kingston, N.C.
Some workers will be transferred to Smithfield North and some will head south to North Carolina, but others will just be out of a job.
"You had a chance to sign up within two or three months and if you didn't sign up you just don't have a job," Lamonte Smith said. "People are pretty messed up about it. Some people have been here 10, 20, 30 years before I was even born and they're still not getting severance pay, all they'll get is pension."
Benefits are expected to end the day people walk out of the plan.
"People been here all their lives. That's how they made their lifestyle and as much as we look out for them, they want us to go the extra route but they're not going to go the extra route for us," Smith said.
The closing of the Smithfield plant could result in a significant hit to the Portsmouth economy.
Mayor Kenny Wright said company officials have been briefing him on the developments.
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