SunFront

As major employers, including the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Southwest Philadelphia and Hahnemann University Hospital, announced that they would close their doors, throwing thousands - including a big chunk of Delco residents - out of work, Delaware County officials are rolling up their sleeves, and rolling out programs to help.

John J. Daly, executive director of the Delaware County Office of Workforce Development, outlined the number of affected people at this week's Delaware County Council meeting, and then discussed resources available for them.

"Philadelphia Energy Solutions' total impact on employees is 1,044," he said. "There's 634 union staff and 410 non-union."

Of those, 140 salaried staff were terminated on June 28; the rest will be laid off the end of August.

"Aug. 25 is expected to be the last day for the majority of the staff," Daly said, adding that of all the employees at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, the number of those over 50 years old is 553. "The average longevity at PES is 30-plus years, so we're looking at a more mature workforce."

In addition, Hahnemann University Hospital in the city has been slowly phasing out operations there, and had only 30 in-patients remaining, he said, adding that their intent to permanently close, also by Aug. 25, will affect another 2,572 workers.

In conjunction with the Hahnemann closure, Drexel University announced it would be laying off 245 physicians in its teaching and clinical staff.

To assist some of the Hahnemann and Drexel employees, a job fair with 184 employers was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Thursday. It was sponsored by the City of Philadelphia, Hahnemann and Philadelphia Works, with whom Daly said his office works closely. In fact, more than 20 Delaware County employers, including Fair Acres Geriatric Center, attended.

Services will be scheduled on-site throughout July into early August, Daly said of the Hahnemann employees, as they were and will be for the refinery workers.

He explained that Rapid Response Sessions were held at PES headquarters and at the refinery from July 8 through July 11. Forty-five employers attended these job fairs.

"Now, you have to remember most of those folks are still employed so they're still working when the sessions occurred," Daly said, adding "320 impacted staff attended one of those sessions, so you're looking at approximately 30 percent impacted employees that attended one of those sessions."

The director said more sessions will scheduled for these employees as deadlines approach.

His office will host a Rapid Response Session specifically for those who were laid off June 28 at the Delaware County Community College's STEM Center from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9.

"We're still in the early stages of that," Daly said.

County Councilman Brian Zidek spoke about the importance of these.

"When events like this transpire, people need the services," he said. "It's comforting to know that you are there, that there are resources available, (that) there are things that are available for citizens to be retrained or to find another employer perhaps."

Daly noted his services are more commonly known as Pennsylvania CareerLink with locations in two places, where services from resume building to applying for positions are provided  for those looking for employment.

The Chester office at 701 Crosby St., Ground Floor is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their telephone number is 610-447-3350.

The Delaware County Community College office at 1300 Academic Building on the college's Marple campus at 901 Media Line Road is also open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their number is 610-723-1220.

Information can also be found by visiting delcoworks.org.

Earlier last week Philadelphia Energy Solutions filed for bankruptcy for the second time, just weeks after a devastating explosion and fire.

The future of the site remains unclear; several organizations have shown an interest in the sprawling, 1,400-acre facility, although it is not known if their intention would be to attempt to revive it as a refinery.

The June 21 explosion and resultant fire damaged one unit in the plant. Dozens of others remain undamaged.

On June 21, the 335,000-barrel-per-day refinery experienced an enormous fire that eradicated one of the facility's 30 units. Five days later, company officials announced they were shutting down the entire refinery and laying off its employees by July 12.

The cause of the explosion and fire remains under investigation by federal authorities from multiple agencies, including the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Fire Marshal’s Office.

Officials from the United Steelworkers Union Local 10-1 based in Norwood said about 700 of their members work at the site in addition to another 500 salaried personnel and 800 members of the Building Trades unions.

Referring to studies generated by state and private analysts, union officials estimate the local economy could face up to a $10 billion impact with up to 36,000 other indirect workers experiencing a full or partial effect.

At a recent meeting, federal, state and local elected officials packed the United Steelworkers hall to express their support for the workers and to talk about the next steps to take to find a new owner for the facility.

"The economic impact is going to spread far and wide," said Ryan O'Callaghan, president of the United Steelworkers Union Local 10-1 representing approximately 700 PES employees. "We just can't find jobs around the corner. It's a specialty occupation."

The union leader referenced a 2017 analysis completed by Alex Holcomb of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Using data culled by Pennsylvania's Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, the Holcomb report estimated that "the loss of every 100 refinery jobs could reduce the output of the local economy by as much as $1 billion."

USW officials said on any given day, there were 2,000 employees at PES – about 700 Steelworkers, 300 salaried personnel and an estimated 1,000 workers from the Building Trades. That translates to a $10 billion blow to the region's economy.

O'Callaghan spoke of the benefit the trade unions have seen from their work at PES.

"Individual units in the refinery come down all the time for maintenance," he said, adding that the 150-year-old facility constantly was being improved through capital investments. "That's where the Building Trades come in and work 8 million man hours in the past six years."

But, O'Callaghan warned, it won't just be the men and women inside the yard that will feel an impact.

"There's more people going to lose their jobs," he said. "In that analysis for every one direct refinery employee that loses their job, up to 18 other people will lose part or all of their salary. There's a whole lot of people that are going to be affected - tens of thousands - not a couple hundred."

The refinery operation was saved back in 2012 when Sunoco entered into a agreement with the Carlyle Group. After last year's bankruptcy, it is owned mostly by its creditors. Carlyle and Energy Transfer Partners LP, Sunoco’s parent, have a combined 25 percent minority share.

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