Tyson Foods closed its Van Buren plant Friday, leaving hundreds without jobs as the meat giant works to improve operating efficiency in the face of declining profits.
Springdale-based Tyson said in a statement that 47 of the former workers at the plant took jobs within Tyson Foods and job fairs and other efforts helped an additional 250 find new places to work. Tyson said it offered relocation assistance with incentives up to $15,000 and a $1,000 stay-on bonus for those who worked until the plant closed.
"Supporting our affected team members remains our top priority," a Tyson spokesman said in response to emailed questions on Friday.
The spokesman said workers ran through the supply at the plant on Thursday and the last official day of operations was Friday. All workers not called back to work Friday to help close the plant were paid though that date, according to the company.
Some workers had walked out at the plant, over what they said was unfair pay and an unsafe working environment.
Tyson Foods owns its Van Buren plant, according to the company, but said it has no immediate plans for the property.
According to preliminary data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March, the Fort Smith Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes three counties in Arkansas and two in Oklahoma, had an unemployment rate of 2.8%, down from 3.2% a year ago. Arkansas' unemployment rate for March stands at 3% and the national unemployment rate was 3.5%.
In mid-March, Tyson said it would close the Van Buren chicken processing plant, which employed about 950 at the time, as well as a plant in Virginia with nearly 700 workers, in a move to optimize its operations. Tyson followed that move in April saying it would cut 10% of its corporate jobs and reduce senior leadership roles by 15%.
On Monday, Tyson reported a substantial second quarter loss that surprised analysts. The company said it lost $97 million or 28 cents per share compared to a profit of $829 million or $2.28 a share a year ago. The company posted nearly flat revenue of $13.3 billion for the quarter, up for $13.21 billion a year ago.
The news put the company's stock into a steep decline, losing 16% to close at $50.73 on Monday. It continued to drop through most of the week with the stock closing at $48.87, down 47 cents or a little less than 1% in trading Friday and down just shy of 20% for the week.
On Monday, Tyson President and Chief Executive Officer Donnie King said the company was facing unique challenges with all of its meat segments under pressure and under-performing all at the same time. He noted the company faces broad economic challenges, including inflation and a softer export market. King said despite that, he's optimistic about the future and the company's long-term success.