GEORGETOWN, Del. – On Feb. 15, approximately 100 Perdue Farms employees were given 30-day notices that their jobs will be eliminated by March 27. One news report stated Perdue plans to hire a subcontractor to hire chicken catchers at the company's poultry processing plants in Sussex County, Del. and Accomack County, Va.

“This is still a tough economy and Perdue is working hard to stay competitive,” Luis Luna, vice president of corporate communications, Perdue Inc., told “We take any decision affecting our associates very seriously, but the economics of the situation left us with no other choice. In order to keep up with the rest of the industry, Perdue is moving its Georgetown and Accomac catching operations to a third-party contractor, he confirmed. “We’re assessing that option with our Salisbury operations as well.”

Perdue has already made that change in Perry, Ga., and Milford, Del. There were no union catchers in either of those operations, Luna explained.

“Perdue is one of the last poultry companies on Delmarva to have its own catching crews,” Luna said. “Besides ours, there are six catching operations on Delmarva. Four are being done by contractors and one is in the process of converting to a contractor. Poultry companies are facing near-record-high grain costs, and the price of poultry still hasn’t picked up because of the economy, so we have to stay competitive with the rest of the industry.

“We are moving the work to a contractor that specializes in catching, just as we do now with cafeterias and plant sanitation, so it can be done more efficiently by folks who are experts,” he added.

The contractor will pay for equipment purchase and maintenance, which will reduce Perdue’s costs, Luna said.

“Affected associates can apply for positions with the contractor, and we hope a good number will be hired by the contractor. The others will be offered the opportunity to apply for open positions within Perdue,” he concluded.