Philip Morris gives a date on possible layoffs

Philip Morris USA has told 180 employees at its Cabarrus plant that they may be laid off by the end of January.

The layoffs would be the first in the company's plan to eliminate 2,500 jobs from the Cabarrus plant, which it intends to close by the end of 2010. The company has already had more than 530 workers transfer to its Richmond plant, and another 500 workers have left or plan to leave the company.

About 300 other employees are still eligible to transfer to Richmond.

“Since announcing the difficult decision to close the Cabarrus 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.”

Employees who are involuntarily laid off are eligible to be recalled to fill job openings with Philip Morris for three years from the date of layoff.

Paige Magness, spokesperson for Philip Morris, said the number of January layoffs would be determined by how many employees take a voluntary buyout program.

Separation benefits would range from six to 20 months' pay, depending on years of service. Magness said layoffs would be determined based on seniority in the company.

Magness said there is no timetable for further reductions at the Cabarrus plant.