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    Philip Morris to Layoff 180 in N.C.

    After announcing plans to close its Concord, N.C., plant by 2010, the company reveals one of its first moves.

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Philip Morris USA officials said the company's plan to lay off 180 hourly workers by January is one of the first moves to close the cigarette plant in Concord, N.C., according to a report by InRich.com.

    The layoff was announced last week and is the first cut since the company said in June 2007 that the plant would cease operations by the end of 2010, the report stated. Also, some work is being transferred to the Henrico County-based company's South Richmond plant.

    So far, the company has offered 814 employees jobs in the Richmond plant, and as of the end of last month, 530 salaried employees had transferred or plan to transfer, company officials said in the report.

    Nearly 500 employees have left or are planning to leave the company.

    "Since announcing the difficult decision to close the Cabarrus [County] plant, we have balanced our business objectives with maximum sensitivity toward our employees," Craig Johnson, president of Philip Morris USA, said in a statement. "We regret the personal impact of this decision on our employees and their families. Despite the difficult circumstances in which our employees have worked since the announcement, they have approached their jobs and their co-workers with great focus, professionalism, respect and compassion."

    Company spokeswoman Paige Magness said the layoffs were the first transition to closing the plant, but no other layoffs had been scheduled, according to InRich.com. Magness also said the company is trying to find positions for as many employees as possible.

    Officials within the company's union said they were aware of pending layoffs but hadn't been notified before the announcement. The Concord facility has about 1,700 employees.

    The company announced that it was closing the Concord plant because of declining cigarette sales.

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