Fire may force magnesium plant layoffs

EATON RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX) - Some Meridian Magnesium employees might be filing for unemployment soon, after a massive fire Wednesday at their Eaton Rapids plant. Management at the plant in Eaton Rapids met with the staff Thursday to answer questions.

FOX 47's Alani Letang went to that meeting and spoke with employees and management.

The room was packed with employees wondering when they'll be able to get back to work. Many of them showing up not even sure what's next for them.

Although he couldn't answer that question yet, the plant manager did encourage the workers to stick with the company through tough times.

"I need this workforce. My methodology is I can't succeed without this workforce," said George Asher, plant manager.

Asher said he understands workers aren't happy about their jobs being on hold.

"I like to look at the eyeballs of my team, I think we owe it to them to give them some real answers. And I think they respect the fact that we are being honest with them," said Asher.

Cleveland Blue has been worried about his job since he got to the plant two hours after the fire started Wednesday. He watched the flames Wednesday morning. And on Thursday morning he watched his plant manager try to address a frustrated staff.

"To me, they really didn't answer about the unemployment about the employment situation or how long you'll be laid off. I'm going to go to Human Resources and ask some more questions to get a better understanding," said Cleveland Blue.

Blue has worked at the plant for almost three years as a material handler.

He said he'd hoped the meeting would give him the information he needed to make his family's summer plans. But said he walked away disappointed.

"I really don't have any answers right now," said Blue.

"There were two sides of the coin today. One employee Letang spoke with after the meeting said he felt well informed, given the fire happened only a day ago.

"I was very enthused with management wanting to rebuild and they are going to keep our jobs. This was a catastrophic thing and you don't ever know what's going to happen," said John Weiher, Meridian Magnesium employee.

Joel Weiher likes the promise of clean-up jobs inside the plant or the possibility of being sent to factories in China or Canada to keep working until this one is back online.

"If you want to be off you probably could be, but it's not bad if you want to work," said Weiher.

The plant manager told us they are still assessing the damage to the building to figure out when it's safe for workers to come back.

The company plans to meet with the employees again next Thursday.
Meantime, investigators are still working to find out what started that blaze.