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Workers foresee Hynix rehirings.

Byline: SHERRI BURI McDONALD The Register-Guard

The word spreading among many employees who were laid off from Hynix Semiconductor Inc.'s Eugene plant last summer is that they should expect to be back at work next week.

Current and former Hynix employees on Monday said a major rehiring appears to be under way, with workers signing agreements to return to the plant, and taking company-required physical exams and drug tests.

In July, facing low demand and low prices in the computer memory chip market, Hynix cut 600 jobs at the Eugene plant, retaining only 200 workers.

During the past few months, Hynix has gradually rehired some workers as it has retooled the factory and begun producing 256-megabit dynamic random access memory chips, or DRAM, instead of the 64-megabit DRAM it had made since the plant began trial production in late 1997.

As of mid-December, Hynix said it had rehired about 150 workers, for a total of about 350.

It's unclear exactly how many of the remaining 450 jobs are being filled in the latest rehiring wave.

"I've heard the majority of people will be coming back the week of Jan. 14," said April Cosgrove, a former process engineer who was rehired in November as a manufacturing technician, with the promise that she'll return to her former engineering position later this month.

Hynix on Monday wouldn't confirm the information from employees. The company plans to make an announcement later this week, said Steve Doran, spokesman at the Eugene plant. Until then, he said he's not authorized to give out any information.

Some laid-off workers said they received registered letters from the company in late December offering them jobs - some at their previous pay rate - as long as they passed a drug test and physical exam.

Many have taken the tests and signed letters pledging to return to work. Now, they're waiting for the company to tell them when to show up at the plant.

Tim Folliett, a former equipment technician at Hynix, said when he signed his letter of rehire in late December, company officials told him his first day back at work would be between Jan. 14 and Jan. 17. As of Monday afternoon, he still didn't have a definitive start date.

Laid-off workers speculated that with the anemic local labor market, many employees will gladly return to their jobs.

"I've been looking for other things," said Michael Karas, a laid-off Hynix manufacturing technician. "I had several resumes out, but heard nothing back. It's a wasteland out there."

Don Finlayson, a former equipment support technician at Hynix, said he has been searching for jobs for the past five months, but nothing comes close to the pay at Hynix.

Even with the hope of returning to work drawing near, Hynix employees said their worries aren't over. Micron Technology Inc., a rival memory chip maker based in Boise, Idaho, is in talks to buy or merge with Hynix's memory chip operations.

Hynix's South Korean corporate parent operates 12 plants in Korea in addition to the Eugene factory. About half of the Korean plants make memory chips, and the other half make nonmemory chips.

Micron is likely to complete its financial review of the debt-strapped Hynix and to begin negotiating a deal on Jan. 15, according to Yonhap News, a Korean news wire service.

Karas said if he's called back to work, he'll consider it temporary because of the ongoing talks between Micron and Hynix.

Folliett said he thinks if Micron acquires the Eugene plant, the Idaho company will keep it running.

"This is probably a more up-to-date plant than anything else Micron has," he said.

The continued uncertainty about the plant's future is unnerving, several employees said.

"Everything's kind of scary," with the talks between Hynix and Micron, said Casey Shaw, a process technician who was rehired in November. His wife, Julie, returned to her job in late October as a materials analysis technician in Hynix's quality assurance department.

"We just go there, do our jobs and hope they'll be there tomorrow," Casey Shaw said.
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Title Annotation:Plant: Some laid-off employees are being offered their old jobs.; Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 8, 2002
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