State gearing up to help RR Donnelley workers

No meetings scheduled yet

Any job listings for the Jefferson City RR Donnelley plant that appeared recently are no longer shown on the company’s website (screenshot above) since the announcement that the company plans to close the facility by October 2013.

Any job listings for the Jefferson City RR Donnelley plant that appeared recently are no longer shown on the company’s website (screenshot above) since the announcement that the company plans to close the facility by October 2013.

Even as they were telling the Jefferson City employees Thursday morning that the RR Donnelley plant is closing after Oct. 1, the multi-national printing and publishing company was advertising local job openings.

Those postings included new listings for a “team leader” and “bindery assistant,” as well as continued listings for a “platemaker” and an “electrician/electronics tech 2.”

Although some of those listings were still posted Saturday on the independent web site, www.glassdoor.com, there were no Jefferson City jobs shown on the company’s own web page, jobs.rrdonnelley.com/Missouri/jobs.aspx.

A 1988 federal law — the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act — generally requires companies with at least 100 employees to provide 60 days advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

In “WARN” letters to local and state officials Thursday, Donnelley’s vice president for Human Resources, R. Scott Bigelow, wrote: “The Company anticipates that employees will be permanently separated from employment with the Company during a 14-day period commencing on October 1, 2013.”

Donnelley’s public relations office in Chicago has not responded to multiple requests for comment or more details.

Amy Susan, the state Economic Development department’s spokeswoman, said Thursday, and again Friday, that department officials “are working with the company on establishing a time and place for our Employment Transition Team to conduct an informational briefing with the affected workers.”

A date for that meeting has not yet been set.

“In addition,” Susan said Friday, “we are trying to arrange a job fair sometime later this month for these workers.”

“Employment Transition Team” is the new name for what the department used to call its “Rapid Response” teams.

“We will be partnering with the (state) Department of Labor in the near future, to coordinate informational sessions,” Susan explained Thursday, “to provide information about other employment opportunities to these affected workers — as well as any other workshops and training that we need to provide ... to enhance their skills and prepare them for any future employment opportunities.”

The state can’t just walk into a company and start holding the informational sessions, she said, without some advance planning.

“We also have to work with the company, to assess their workforce, so that we can identify the types of workers who are there (and) identify what skills that they could utilize in terms of upgrading their skills,” she explained.

“Basically, what do we need to do with this workforce, to get them to these other jobs?”

The WARN letter provides one starting point.

Donnelley’s HR vice president provided a listing of the various job categories — and the number of employees holding those positions — that comprise the 475 full-time people whose jobs are being dropped.

The federal WARN law doesn’t apply to part-time employees, nor people who’ve been employed less than six months — so there actually may be more than 475 jobs being cut.

But the list includes 111 bindery operators, 104 press operators and assistant press operators and 96 “material handlers” for the press and bindery operations.

The list also includes five “managers” and one operations vice president among the other 164 jobs on the list.

For all employees, Susan said, the state can help search for another job.

“The Career Centers are open any time for these folks, if they have questions,” she said.

The closest state Career Center is at 1716 Four Seasons Drive.

“The ‘jobs.mo.gov’ is open 24 hours, seven days a week,” Susan added. “That’s Missouri’s number one jobs bank.

“We have currently, approximately 34,000 jobs posted on there at any given time.”

She encouraged all job-seekers — especially “anyone who knows that a job-layoff is inevitable” — to establish or update their registry information.

“The goal of the program is to customize it and identify jobs that they could transition into,” Susan said, “so that there’s no lapse in employment (and) therefore, no need to file for unemployment.”

People who are laid-off and don’t have a new job cannot file for unemployment benefits until they actually are out of work, she cautioned.

People who know a lay-off is coming, like the RR Donnelley employees, can’t pre-file for unemployment just because they were told Thursday their jobs are ending.

Since November 2008, according to state Labor Department statistics, Cole County’s unemployment rate has run between 4.6 and 7.5 percent.

Since January, it has run between 4.9 percent (in April) and 5.6 percent (in June).

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