ROUSES POINT — Workers facing layoff from the Pfizer pharmaceutical plant later this year can once again access assistance in moving on.
The U.S. Department of Labor has accepted the firm’s application for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, a federal initiative that assists U.S. workers who have lost or will be losing their jobs.
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It provides opportunities to obtain the skills, credentials, resources and support necessary to find new positions. That assistance for former Pfizer employees had expired as of March 23.
Benefits under the program include up to 130 weeks of full-time or part-time training, tax credits to cover health-care costs, and reimbursement for job-seeking activities that take place outside the local area. The program also offers relocation allowances, employment and case-management services and a wage subsidy for workers re-employed at annual wages of $50,000 or less.
The Rouses Point manufacturing facility was owned by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals when, in 2005, it announced it would close within three years. At that time, there were about 1,250 employees.
Akrimax bought the facility in 2008, when there were still about 800 employees, and shared space there with Wyeth and later Pfizer. Pfizer bought out Wyeth in January 2009; there were about 575 workers left there, working either for Akrimax or Wyeth at that time.
Pfizer said it would close its Rouses Point, Chazy and Plattsburgh operations in November of that year. In January 2010, the workforce was down to about 550 employees and to about 350 by the end of that year.
Pfizer re-acquired the plant in 2011 and announced it would continue to operate there until the end of 2013. On Thursday, Pfizer representative Lauren Starr said by email that there are 230 employees at Rouses Point and the plan of record remains to close the plant at the end of the year.
Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Bill Owens pushed for the employee-assistance approval in a letter earlier this year after coordinating with Pfizer and the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
In it, they stated approximately 928 former employees have received Trade Adjustment Assistance through the program. Schumer said it provides much needed training and assistance to help workers who face a difficult transition to find new employment.
“We should be working every day to get out-of-work New Yorkers back on the job as quickly as possible, so I applaud the Department of Labor’s decision to approve Pfizer’s application and provide these crucial services,” he said in a press release.
Gillibrand said the support is incredibly important for these North Country workers who are losing their positions through no fault of their own.
“When New York jobs get shipped away, our workers deserve every opportunity to support their families through this tough time and access critical training to get the skills they need to land a new, good-paying job,” she said.
Owens said job loss is tough on workers and their families.
“That is why it is so important that services are available to help people get back on their feet,” he said.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the chamber continues to coordinate the Pfizer Transition Coordinating Council, a collaboration among community, state and federal interests to support training efforts and marketing. He thanked the legislators for their efforts.
“Maximizing training benefits for Pfizer employees has been a priority from the start, and the congressman and senators have been very responsive every time we have approached them to obtain additional or extended TAA support,” he said by email.
Department of Labor assistance is available for two years once approved. Additional information on the Trade Adjustment Find assistance certification is available at http://tinyurl.com/c4ebdjm.
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