JeffBoat employee says he'll lose his 'livelihood' when southern Indiana plant shuts down
A major Jeffersonville business will shut down next month, putting hundreds out of work.
JeffBoat has sat on the edge of the Ohio River for nearly a century. At one time, it employed 13,000 people.
But last week, JeffBoat’s parent company, American Commercial Lines, sent a message to employees that “Layoffs are expected to begin on or about April 2, 2018 and continue through May 14, 2018. Approximately 207 employees will be affected in total."
The facility is closing.
Many of those employees have worked in the shipyard for decades. It's often demanding physical labor in the rain, snow or sweltering heat.
Gary Emery is one of those employees, a 27-year veteran with JeffBoat.
“When new people would come in, they'd say, 'Where are all these barges going to?'” Emery said. “And I would say, 'I don't know, but we keep building them.'”
The company is blaming a surplus of barges throughout the country. Companies have either overbuilt, or it's cheaper to buy boats already built than order new ones.
“I'm losing my livelihood,” Emery said. “What is there to do after you lose your job?”
Emery said there are a lot of people in his same position with no paycheck and no health insurance.
“I'll have to find something, because I'm on blood pressure pills, and my wife is on medication,” he said.
Emery said he made major sacrifices for the job, including his health, which is making it difficult to find a new one. He said he has injured his knees, his hands, and he's hard of hearing.
“[New] jobs are few and far between, because there's always someone much younger there,” Emery said. “And I don't hold that against them. That's just the way it is. What are the chances of me at my age finding another job making $20+ an hour?”
After a lifetime of physical labor for one company, Emery wishes the company with such a deep Jeffersonville history could have given him and his colleagues more time to plan for their future.
“I think they knew this was coming," he said. "I think they could have told us a year, if not more, before that they knew this was coming."
With just a notice in the mail, Emery and more than 200 others are left scrambling to make ends meet.
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