Vertellus workers qualify for federal layoff assistance

When Vertellus Specialties Inc. shutters part of its South Tibbs Avenue plant this fall, workers who lose their jobs will be eligible for help through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

In August, the Indianapolis-based chemical company said it planned to shut down part of the local plant, putting an estimated 40 to 50 people out of work. 

Vertellus is also working its way through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy it sought in May.

In bankruptcy filings and in statements to IBJ, Vertellus has identified global oversupply—from companies in China and other countries—as a reason for its difficulties.  

The U.S. Department of Labor appears to agree with that assessment and has cleared the way for Vertellus workers to receive Trade Adjustment Assistance. The Department of Labor published the decision on its website Friday.

Trade Adjustment Assistance includes a range of benefits and services for workers who lose a job because of foreign trade. Assistance can include money for training and job-search expenses. Qualified workers age 50 and older can also receive supplemental pay if they find a new job that pays less than the one they lost.

United Steelworkers Local 1999 applied for the TAA benefits on behalf of the 43 Vertellus employees it represents. TAA benefits are also available to salaried workers who lose their jobs.

Under the Department of Labor’s decision, TAA benefits will be available to Vertellus employees who lose their jobs between Sept. 19, 2015 and Oct. 11, 2018. 

When Vertellus announced the layoffs in August, it estimated the shutdown would begin on Oct. 17 and would affect 40-50 people.

Kelly Hugunin, Local 1999’s business representative, said that date has been slightly delayed and the layoffs will occur in phases.

“It’s looking like starting the 31st of this month will be the first ones,” Hugunin said.

With about 240 employees working there now, the South Tibbs Avenue plant is Vertellus’ largest single operation.

IBJ was unable to reach Vertullus representatives for comment Friday afternoon.

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