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California Microwave plant lays off 49

February 11, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

More than 40 percent of the work force at the California Microwave Systems' Hagerstown spy plane plant was laid off Friday morning due to lack of work following the completion of two U.S. Army contracts, a company spokesman said.

Forty-five of the plant's 106 workers received layoff notices, effective immediately, at the start of their work shift Friday morning, said Jim Reinhard, media relations manager for Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-based Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector.

An additional four workers at the company's Belcamp, Md., facility were laid off, Reinhard said.

The company doesn't expect to recall workers, he said.

Reinhard wouldn't speculate on whether there would be additional layoffs or closure of the Hagerstown plant, which opened Jan. 1, 1996.

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman purchased California Microwave Systems, formerly a division of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based California Microwave Inc., in April 1999.

The idled workers, most of them hourly employees, will receive severance pay based on their length of service, Reinhard said.

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The company asked the local Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation office to work with employees who had received the notification, he said.

The workers, all of them eligible for unemployment benefits, have been told of local job opportunities and offered retraining, according to Thomas B. Riford, marketing director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

Riford said his agency - charged with attracting new jobs and fostering workforce expansion - has offered its help to try to ease the blow to affected California Microwave workers.

Given the county's record-low jobless rate, Riford said most of the laid-off workers could be absorbed by employers in the area. Unfortunately, there are no local companies like California Microwave or comparable jobs here for the highly skilled workers who have lost their jobs, Riford said.

The California Microwave plant, at Top Flight Air Park near Hagerstown Regional Airport, modifies standard commuter planes with high-tech surveillance equipment used by the U.S. Army.

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