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Ball Forced To Can Workers ConAgra Decision Impacts 159
Ball Can
Over 55 percent of the Oakdale Ball can production was for the ConAgra Foods facility. In 2015 ConAgra will start using an out-of-the area firm headquartered overseas, prompting massive layoffs at Ball. - photo by Leader File Photo

Oakdale’s largest employer’s decision to contract to a foreign company has affected the jobs of the city’s third largest employer, who as a result, will be cutting over half of its workforce this fall.

The Ball Corporation, with a can manufacturing facility located on West Greger Street, notified the City of Oakdale with a “Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification” that it plans to cut 159 local jobs on Oct. 24.

“Ball is constantly working to optimize its global food and household products manufacturing footprint to meet our customers’ needs,” said Ball Corporation Corporate Communications Manager Renee Robinson on Wednesday when contacted by The Leader. “As previously disclosed (in the notice), we are losing a significant food can customer in the U.S., which unfortunately will impact approximately 150 Oakdale employees. These are dedicated, experienced employees, who have contributed to our company’s success, and we are working with local labor officials and state agencies to address their needs.”

Robinson said the company is working with representatives from the Employment Development Department and the Stanislaus Business Alliance and added that Ball employees are eligible to apply for open positions at other Ball locations and the company will assist with relocation.

“It’s always disturbing when jobs are lost,” said Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer. “It’s our hope that Ball can bring back some of the lost positions to Oakdale.”

According to company officials, over 55 percent of the Oakdale Ball can production was for the ConAgra Foods facility.

Earlier this year ConAgra Foods, and its Yosemite Avenue plant, contracted with glass and metal product producer the Ardaugh Group of Luxembourg and has discontinued its contract with Ball effective in 2015.

“ConAgra Foods made the decision to transition to a new can supplier after a thorough evaluation of the company’s business needs and goals and the capabilities of different suppliers,” said ConAgra Communications Manager Kate Thomas. “Ball will remain our primary can supplier until 2015, and we continue to work together on the transition.”

Ball moved into the West Greger Street facility in 2000 under a joint venture with ConAgra, who had acquired the plant in 1990 from United Can. The facility was specifically built in its location because of the ConAgra plant – once Hunts Wesson until 1990 – to manufacture cans for their packaging. Part of the convenience is that cans are transported on a designated paved path from back of the Ball facility to the rear of the ConAgra facility with no impact on city traffic.

In 2004, Ball bought the facility with a 10-year purchase agreement to produce cans for ConAgra.

That term is now up.

Last August, the Ardaugh Group announced the opening of a new manufacturing plant located in the Reno area.

In addition to lost jobs in this area, city officials have predicted that ConAgra’s move will result in 24 to 36 additional trucks per day on Oakdale’s roads due to the volume of cans being trucked in from Nevada.

This is the first mass layoff in the city since 2007 when the Hershey plant closed in Oakdale. As a result of that action, 400 jobs were lost in the city.