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Plant, hospital workers around Harrisburg, Pa., face job losses
[December 08, 2008]

Plant, hospital workers around Harrisburg, Pa., face job losses

(Patriot-News, The (Harrisburg, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 8--The tide of bad economic news is rising in the Harrisburg region.

Carlisle Regional Medical Center put 25 employees on voluntary leave on Thursday.

CEO Nathan Staggs said it's the result of decreased patient volume, probably related to people putting off nonurgent care because of financial worries and people losing jobs and health insurance.

In Perry County, employees of IER Fujikura were dealing with news their plant will shut down by next summer.

The plant in Liverpool employs 40 people. It makes gaskets and seals for the automotive industry.

"Given the downturn in the auto industry, we had to cut costs," said John Markiewicz, chief operating officer for the Ohio-based company. "We're all in survival mode right now."

The closing of the Liverpool plant will mark the loss of a local institution. The plant opened 40 years ago. According to Markiewicz, it was founded by Myles Murray, who was born in Liverpool.

Murray opened his first rubber gasket making plant in Ohio. He chose Liverpool for his second plant.

Markiewicz wouldn't provide exact figures, but said wages were "very, very competitive in the area," and workers received health benefits.

The company changed ownership several times over the years, and was bought by Japan-based Fujikura in 2006.

Markiewicz said workers will receive severance packages, but he wouldn't reveal specifics. They have been offered the chance to transfer to the plant in Macedonia, Ohio.

Markiewicz said the company chose to close the Liverpool plant because its only other plant is the one in Macedonia, where its headquarters is and which is closer to the auto industry in Detroit.

At Carlisle Regional, Staggs said he hopes people put on leave this week will be called back by February.

While on leave, they will receive no wages. If they pay their share of their health benefit costs, the hospital will continue paying its portion, and the employee can remain covered, Staggs said.

He said employees can use vacation or personal days, and are eligible to collect state unemployment benefits.

Staggs said patient volume has been down since the beginning of the year.

As a result, the hospital had been leaving some jobs unfilled when people left. Now it became necessary to further reduce the work force, he said.

He said the laid-off workers include people in business support positions, but also some licensed practical nurses who worked directly with patients.

"But [registered nurses] can kind of absorb some of those duties, take care of patients and keep the quality up. We really tried to stay away from the patient care area," he said.


--National picture: The federal government reported 533,000 jobs were lost in November, raising the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent. It represents the biggest one-month loss of jobs in 34 years. Nearly 2 million jobs have been lost in the last 12 months.

--Regional picture: The Harrisburg region's unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent in October, up from 4.9 percent in September and 3.7 percent a year ago, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry. The statewide unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, up from 4.5 percent in October 2007.

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