Syngenta lays off 23 workers

KEKAHA — A Kauai seed company let 23 employees go on Monday.

Syngenta AG, a global Swiss agrochemical company with a research center in Kekaha, laid off workers at all levels.

“The layoffs were literally across the board, from top management downward,” said Syngenta Hawaii spokesman Mark Phillipson.

The layoffs, which are considered permanent, did not just affect only new employees, he said. Some of them had tenure and worked for Syngenta for a number of years.

“The goal of this Accelerating Reduction Leverage program was to cut $1 billion by 2018,” he said. “All industry is cyclical and if things gear up, we will certainly match those needs, but right now, the call is for a reduction of $265 million globally and we have met that goal.”

The affected employees were given a minimum of three months salary with medical benefits paid through the end of the summer. Those with the company longer received an additional two weeks salary for every year of service.

Syngenta called in WorkWise Kauai to conduct placement services for the employees as well.

Phillipson said the Kekaha operation is a tight group and he knew most of the affected workers personally.

“That is what makes this so hard,” he said. “But the company is treating them with dignity and they deserve it, and we will do our best to help them find new employment.”

One of the other seed companies is hiring, he added.

WorkWise Kauai Branch Manager Eric Nordmeier said so far, only Syngenta has announced any layoffs.

“We are looking at providing an unemployment orientation sometime in the end of March for these individuals at Kauai Community College,” Nordmeier said. “We are exploring the possibility of inviting others who are unemployed.”

DuPont Pioneer spokeswoman Laurie Yoshida said there have not been any recent layoffs. Pioneer employs about 130 people.

District 16 State Rep. Dee Morikawa said she learned the layoffs were coming early last week. She understood the layoffs were related to discontinuing a program.

“They have assured me that the affected employees will be assisted in finding new work, as well as severance pay,” Morikawa said.

In a November news release from company headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, Syngenta International AG CEO Mike Mack stated the Accelerating Operational Leverage program was to simplify structure and key global functions. This includes moving certain activities to lower-cost locations, increasing profitability and maintaining focus on innovation.

Syngenta has more than 28,000 employees in over 90 countries. For Kauai, it means that operations will shift and Syngenta just won’t be doing as many projects as in the past, Phillipson added.

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