Swisher Laying Off 150

Cigar maker cites government regulation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- About 15% of the workforce at Jacksonville, Fla.-based cigar manufacturer Swisher International will be losing their jobs over the next few weeks. Citing increasing government regulation, company officials announced that about 150 hourly Swisher employees will be laid off, reported The Florida Times-Union

Lee Creasman, Swisher vice president of human resources, said management made the decision late last week.

"They'll take place over the next four to six weeks as we work with labor unions who represent these employees to handle... the employees who are not affected by the layoffs," he told the newspaper.

About 30 of the workers who are losing their jobs are mechanics while the remaining employees being laid off are machine operators and support personnel, he added.

The Swisher operations make millions of cigars daily, including the Swisher Sweet cigar sold in convenience stores, grocery stores, bars and night clubs.

Creasman acknowledged company officials instituted the layoffs directly due to government regulation and taxes in the United States, and some operations are being relocated to the Dominican Republic, said the report.

"We've been adversely impacted by numerous government regulations and taxes that primarily came in 2009 as a result of the Supplemental Health Insurance program," Creasman said, adding no employees from Jacksonville are relocating to the Dominican Republic and all Swisher hires in that country will come from the indigenous population.

The latest round of Swisher layoffs comes on the heels of a layoff in November that saw far fewer employees let go, the report said. Creasman said Swisher remains a solid Jacksonville employer with about 700 workers and there are no plans to end operations in the city.

"This is our primary manufacturing facility, and we're hopeful that this would be the last layoff that we are forced to make," he said.