ERWIN — The small town of Erwin was looking forward to a new beginning after suffering six tragic deaths this year.
Instead of a happy holiday, though, residents will face an anxious one; the town's biggest employer is phasing out 200 jobs over the next four weeks.
The Swift Denim Plant says the move is necessary right before Christmas to keep the company competitive.
Swift Denim has been the cornerstone of the Erwin economy for decades, but the company is shrinking. The latest round of cuts means only 850 workers will be collecting paychecks after the new year.
"It really affects the morale of the employees," Eric McLean, a company employee, says. "And the morale has been rather low because the individuals, they pretty much know who will be leaving."
Company officials say they are being forced to cut jobs because some of their machinery has become obsolete and must be shut down.
Roosevelt Rogers, the Union President, is heartbroken. "It is very difficult and very painful to tell the people and let the people know because of the situation with the holiday coming up," Rogers says. "And I guess they've got their Christmas presents laid up and it's going to be rough out there."
"The timing is unfortunate," Vice President Doug Bridell says. "However, we feel an obligation to our employees to let them know as soon as possible so they can make appropriate decisions during this time."
Company officials say the cuts will be determined by seniority and past work experience.
This is the second round of cuts at the plant this year. In June, 250 workers were laid off.
Swift Denim officials say they are asking for the state's help in finding the displaced workers new jobs.