Wednesday, January 6, 2016

DelawareOnline: "DuPont lays off 200 Experimental Station researchers"

From an article by Jeff Mordock and Scott Goss, the same DelawareOnline reporters from yesterday, more details on the first day of layoffs at DuPont: 
DuPont Co. laid off about 200 scientists in its Central Research and Development division at the Experimental Station on Monday, according to sources familiar with the facility's operations. 
Those job losses, said to include doctorate holders and technicians, account for nearly half of the Experimental Station's central research staff. DuPont's two core research and development functions – material sciences and molecular sciences – were said to be gutted, reportedly leaving only 16 doctorate holders among the two business units... 
...All Delaware workers laid off by DuPont will receive a separation package, career placement services and training allowances based on years of service, company officials said. 
According to DuPont workers, that package that includes a minimum of two months' worth of full pay with an additional month's pay for every two years of service, up to a maximum of a 12 months. The workers also reportedly are eligible to receive a pre-approved $5,000 training allowance, along with a year of so-called COBRA medical and dental coverage at employee rates... 
...Bob Strong, deputy principal assistant at the state Labor Department, said the agency is hoping to send rapid-response teams to meet with DuPont workers by the end of January.
Those teams will provide workers with detailed information about collecting unemployment when their severance packages expire, along with job training and certification assistance, he said. 
"We're expecting to provide general information to employees in advance and then hold multiple events, each with about 200 to 300 staff members, where we can provide more specific details and really drill down on their questions and concerns," he said. 
"In the meantime, we've developed a survey that will help us match each worker's job title and skills to available positions throughout the state and get a better idea of what assistance these folks think they'll need."
I am so sorry for those affected. Some questions I wish I knew the answers to:
  • What percentage of laid-off DuPont workers will be able to find work in chemistry in the area? (broadly speaking) I feel like the Philadelphia area (GSK, Rohm and Haas/Dow, Merck) have already been very hard hit over the last ten years, with no palpable resurgence. 
  • What percentages of these laid-off scientists will be able to find work in chemistry at all? Are other markets (Boston, say?) booming enough to absorb these folks?  
  • When you have a highly technical workforce like this one, do the surveys and such from state unemployment offices actually help? 
  • What does this mean for layoffs for Dow? 
A failure on the part of the American Chemical Society over the past five to ten years has been its apparent unwillingness to study the simple social science around layoffs of its members, especially in mass layoffs (like this one) or site closures (like the Ann Arbor Pfizer site, or the Roche Nutley site.) We can do better, and we should. 

Once again, best wishes to those affected, and to all of us. 


  1. "training allowances" -- That's a good laugh. "Do you want fries with that?" 101.

    Or maybe,

    "Put these 3 books into the box, seal, place on conveyor" 103 for that local job at Amazon.

    Training. Eight to ten years of chemistry training doesn't seem to have much value around Wilmington any more.

  2. Crappy compensation for years of service! They make it look as if to suggest that COBRA coverage is good but it is a sham. Less coverage and more $$$/month for us when my previous company laid me off! I am talking approximately 12,000/year for a family of four! But then that was 8 years back! Wonder how much in present day $$$. May all those MBAs rot in hell!

    1. Whenever I hear COBRA used in regard to insurance, I think of the bad guys from G.I. Joe. Having looked at the prices and coverage myself at about the same time, I think I'd rather take my chances with Destro, Serpentor, and Cobra Commander.

    2. Cobra was over $750/mo for me. I purchased insurance from the healthcare marketplace, and that is $300/mo. Dental is $20/mo in addition through a separate insurer. The maximum unemployment for PA is $573 per week, and that is taxed. None of us know how long we will be unemployed, so $750/mo plus all of the other fixed expenses (plus food, etc) is too much.

  3. I am not sure ACS should be doing social science studies on anything except marketing. That said well designed social studies are very much needed here.

    1. The market has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Temporary positions, with terms of 9 mo to 1 year, are becoming much more common in chemistry. Salaries have dropped dramatically. Morale has gone through the floor, and managers have dictator like power. You have to decide what you are willing to deal with.

  4. The ACS can do nothing because they represent all of chemistry and cannot take the side of management or non-management. An American Chemists Society is needed.

    Those PhDs affected might consider employment with state or local governments in chemistry positions that don't require a PhD.

    1. OK, I get the idea. I just don't think about the representation the same way.
      - by the number of members in class - but there are more non-management chemists than management
      - by dues paid - most employed chemists pay the same dues
      - by voting members - so, who votes the most?
      - by influence - that would fit
      - by money = influence - I guess most sales comes from corporate clients, so this one could fit the best.

      Let's remember that ACS was founded as a sales organization selling to the public the chemical information contributed by the members. There is a touch of change in ACS Strategic Plan 2015, but the first and foremost goal is still "Provide information".

    2. A union isn't going to be successful in the current market. There is too much available foreign labor.

  5. As an ex-Rohm and Haas chemist, the Philly area is one of the least bad places to be in the overall lousy scientific job market. I think one mistake people make is chasing after the dwindling supply of academic-like jobs at places like Dow or DuPont. A better bet is to look at Dow and DuPont's customers - formulators of products like coatings, cosmetics, adhesives, sealants, etc. That's what I ended up doing - I used to synthesize polymers; now I'm a formulator at a specialty coatings manufacturer.

    As a native of the area, I was unwilling to move after my layoff, but I figured most of the others would be - the PhD's were nationally recruited, and few were originally from Philly. I turned out to be wrong about this - most of them had spouses with good jobs and/or kids in school, and few of my fellow layoff victims ended up leaving the area.

    1. There are a few polymer chemistry jobs around, but probably less than the number of chemists on the market for new employment. Arkema keeps on posting the same organic peroxide chemist position - it's been up since last summer! Polysciences posts positions on occasion, and some networking contacts told me to try Quaker Chemicals. There are a lot more options for analytical chemists.

      (Enjoy. I'm a medicinal chemist, so you guys aren't really competing for the same positions. Being unemployed sucks.)

  6. These layoffs are solely a Dupont effort to cut costs in the near term. They have nothing to do with the merger. We expect more layoffs at the merge and then before and after each spin-off, respectively. In the past, each business unit of Dupont would contribute to the corporation and that is what supported cr&d, etc. Corporate largesse in return would support the units that might have a bad year. This balanced portfolio philosophy was how it operated for years. If not for Ag and Safety, back in 2009, Dupont would have gone bankrupt or bailed out also. This recent cost cutting is a dismantling of that system. The short term need for this is the depressed Ag market. Sales are way down and Ag contributes 30% to the bottom line. What little we are told, We're being told that until the merger is final, Dupont and Dow are still competitors.

    1. Are they offering free Xanax in the cafeterias at least? Sounds like a tough environment to be working in....

  7. Was the bit about sending "rapid response teams by the end of January" a joke? Oh, I get it, cuz Delaware is so big!

  8. PA unemployment office will have you sign up for JobGateway as a condition of receiving unemployment. You can do job searching, but Indeed is a far superior and current tool. You will go to an orientation and speak with a job counselor for about 10 min afterwards. The counselor will then tell you that you're on your own. There are some helpful workshops if you haven't updated your resume in awhile. PA budget impasse has halted any WIA money for retraining, and you have to follow a certain process. (I found some potential truck drivers who had hoped to do that, and one said that the application process was quite involved.)

    Check the meetup in your area to see if there are any local job clubs. There is a huge one in the Philly suburbs (meetings in many spots daily) called Great Careers, and one in Blue Bell called Philadelphia Career Connection. You can get moral support, networking, and they encourage accountability since you have to state what you did last week and what you plan to do this week. The unemployment requirement is apply to 2 jobs per week, and these guys encourage 5 jobs per day.