Dec. 07--The parent company of EaglePicher operations has informed employees that it plans to put the longtime Joplin employer up for sale, an EaglePicher executive confirmed Wednesday.
Penny Gibson, vice president of human resources at EaglePicher, said St. Louis-based Vectra has informed them that the move is in the "early stages" and no deal or agreement is currently in place or imminent.
Gibson said EaglePicher is not expecting a potential sale to have any impact on the company's local presence or workforce in the area.
EaglePicher has multiple locations in Joplin and one in Pittsburg, Kansas. Those operations, under the plan, would simply have a new parent company.
"We're not anticipating any changes," Gibson said. "We have, you know, a slew of open positions that are out on our site today, so from our perspective everything is business as usual."
Gibson said Vectra has declined to release any additional information about the potential sale or its reasons for exploring it.
A prospective sale would continue frequent changes for the company in the past couple of years. Vectra at one point sold some of its units to Apollo Global Management, and others to Platform Specialty Products. Funds managed by Apollo Global Management retained the battery group -- EaglePicher -- and two other Vectra units.
EaglePicher also has gone through two recent executive management changes, and in 2016 was subject to a successful vote to decertify Local 812 of the United Steelworkers, a union that had about 230 members in the bargaining unit.
The company has also reduced its workforce by approximately 200 jobs in the past two years, even including some added jobs at new plants in Joplin and Pittsburg. The company estimated its workforce was at 970 in May 2016, before two rounds of layoffs later that year.
Attempts to reach Vectra this week have not been successful.
EaglePicher is currently the defendant in 13 lawsuits brought by former employees, all alleging various forms of discrimination as the reason for their July 2016 firings. While the suits do not specifically say the workers were part of the layoffs, one of the reductions the company announced came in July of last year, when 135 people were let go.
All of the suits, filed in Jasper County Circuit Court, claim "defendants engage in a broad-based pattern of discrimination in the form of adverse employment decisions" regarding hiring, promotions, discipline, compensation, selection for reductions in force and firing. Five of the suits mention age discrimination, while seven include allegations of disability discrimination, and two former workers say they were discriminated or retaliated against for having filed workers' compensation claims. The cases are ongoing.
EaglePicher has reduced its total workforce by approximately 200 since the beginning of 2016.
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