An undetermined number of the 45 workers terminated this week when new owners took over V.I. Cement and Building Products have been rehired.
How many is unclear but the seller, Devcon International, is promising to work with them and their union to resettle them in new jobs.
Douglas Gurlea, operations manager for the previous owner, said he hopes to know soon how many remain displaced.
"I do understand that St. Thomas Concrete did rehire employees," he said. "I am waiting a final list so that we as a company can try and help those that did not pick up employment with the new company."
Gurlea reiterated Devcon’s regard for the former employees, saying Thursday that "as far the efficiency and capabilities of the workers we had to let go, we feel strongly that some of those workers were among the more skilled workers in the ready-mix concrete industry anywhere in the world."
In a statement issued when the sale was first announced, Devcon, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., said the cement operations in Tortola and St. Thomas produced sales of $12 million annually.
The company is shifting its focus, Gurlea said Thursday, to invest in the aspects of the business with the greatest long-term potential.
"Our company is taking a long, hard look at its assets right now with an eye toward making higher return capital improvements that have the best long-term potential," Gurlea said. "That’s a decision by our board of directors of Devcon. The decision was timely given the offer made by the new owners for the concrete operation on St. Thomas."
When asked if Devcon’s sale of its concrete business indicates a loss of confidence in the future of the territorial economy, Gurlea noted that not all of its
Virgin Islands operations have been sold. "V.I. Cement and Building Products' St. Croix branch was not affected by this," he said. "We are still providing the community on St. Croix with ready-mix concrete, aggregates and bagged cement."
He noted a similar operation continues on St. Thomas.
"We are still providing the community with construction aggregates and cement. We as a company, whether V.I. Cement and Building Products or Devcon, continue to be strongly committed to the V.I. community and (the sale) is in no way an indication of where we believe the economy is going," Gurlea said.
There are still talks under way between the selling company and the Steelworkers union, which represents the terminated employees. The union wants benefits for the workers that are due under the laws governing plant closings.
The company maintains that the transaction has not resulted in a closing.
Gurlea said that and other issues should be resolved in due course.
"I am working very closely with Randy Allen of the Steelworkers and Tito Morales of the Central Labor Council on the few remaining issues at hand," he said. "Our negotiations are positive and in a spirit of cooperation. Both parties are seeking to minimize the impact of the layoffs as quickly as possible."


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