TPC plans to cut staff at Texas plant hit by November blast

Chemical maker TPC Group [TPCL.UL] plans to cut at least 100 employees by the end of April at its Port Neches, Texas, petrochemical plant, the site of devastating explosions in November that forced evacuations of up to 60,000 people, said sources familiar with plant operations.

TPC gave employees a notice in a statement posted on-line of plans to reduce its Port Neches workforce by the end of April to a level necessary to operate a products terminal. It did not disclose the exact number of layoffs planned.

Approximately 45 hourly employees out of a current 140 would remain as of April 30 and salaried staff would be cut to about 17 from twice that number, the sources familiar with plant operations said.

“The company does not expect that we will need employees beyond those necessary to operate as a terminal for more than three to five years,” TPC said in the online statement.

TPC also said it will take “a number of years to rebuild” the Port Neches plant, which produced 1,3 butadiene used to make rubber.

Brent Roy, secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers union local 13-228, which represents the largest number of hourly workers, said the number of employees to be laid off may be reduced following negotiations scheduled to begin this week between the unions and TPC.

“We’ve got to prove to them that we need more people than that to operate,” Roy said.

The explosions and fires on Nov. 27 forced evacuations from four cities around the plant and caused widespread damage to homes and businesses in Port Neches and the other communities.

Evacuees were allowed to return to their homes two days after the Nov. 27 explosions.