It's a familiar refrain: More layoffs are underway at GlobalFoundries in Essex Junction.
Employees were notified Wednesday of job reductions that were expected to trim about 130 people from the semiconductor plant's workforce of roughly 2,600.
"I've heard from affected workers that it happened today," Vermont Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle told Seven Days Wednesday afternoon.
A company spokesman confirmed the layoffs in an email Wednesday but would not say how many workers lost their jobs. The company also sounded an ominous note about Vermont's high utility costs and suggested the expense could drive future investments to a rival plant in New York.
"We continue to invest in our Burlington site, actively recruiting for positions needed to support the site’s mission and business goals," company spokesman Jason Gorss said in a statement. "And while we can attract the talent, our hiring trajectory is increasingly constrained by external factors such as electrical costs — which remain over 84 percent higher than those in our sister site in Malta, N.Y. To support a long term future at this location, it is critical to secure a more competitive and predictable cost structure from local utilities."
Vermont industrial electricity rates are about 50 percent higher than the national average, while New York's are very close to the national average, according to rating firm Electricity Local.
The layoffs were widely expected. Last week, execs at the Vermont plant informed Kurrle that they would make cuts to comply with a 5 percent workforce reduction throughout the company. GlobalFoundries has roughly 18,000 employees at plants around the world, including the U.S., Singapore and Germany. The company is owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
"They did alert us that they were going to be laying off people in Vermont," Kurrle said. "It's no surprise to me that it's starting to happen."
She did not know the exact number of employees let go.
Under state and federal rules, large employers must communicate with the Vermont Labor Department about significant job cuts. That helps the agency reach out promptly with information about unemployment benefits and new job opportunities, Kurrle said.
It's undoubtedly a tough day for employees at the plant, she added: "Right now, they’ve had this awful news and they are trying to figure out what's next."
Kurrle noted that GlobalFoundries has made investments in the plant and is currently advertising to fill a number of positions, from production to professional engineering.
Those want ads are encouraging, said Kurrle: "I feel reassured that they have every intention of staying put."
Although employment at the Essex Junction facility has declined from its IBM heyday, it remains an important employer in Vermont, Kurrle added. "It would be a large hole if GlobalFoundries were to leave our state," she said.