Freeport announces hiring freeze, early retirements

Contributed Photo. Freeport's Safford mining operation.

MORENCI – Reacting to the downturn in copper pricing, officials with Freeport-McMoRan announced a number of moves aimed at reducing expenses – including reducing staff.

In a letter to employees dated April 15, Steve Higgins, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, said the company was offering “an enhanced voluntary separation program to certain groups and individuals that will offer special severance benefits to employees who wish to voluntarily leave the company, whether for professional opportunities, retirement or other personal reasons.”

Higgins further said that the number of employees who opt for the early retirement program “will determine the extent to which involuntary separations will be required.” He said certain departments have already been hit by the involuntary separations, starting with unpaid furloughs at the corporate offices.

He added that Freeport is also “soliciting interest in part-time employment or ‘job sharing,’ and unpaid leaves of absence for up to one year.”

Higgins said the company has implemented a hiring freeze, rescinded all outstanding job offers and suspended the 2020 summer intern program. Employee quarterly safe production bonuses are suspended through the remainder of the year, including the first-quarter 2020 bonus. And the company has suspended “all contributions to the Enhanced Employee Capital Accumulation Program and Enhanced Supplemental Executive Capital Accumulation Plan along with the company match to the ECAP and SECAP plans.”

NASDAQ reports copper was at $2.3295 at the close of trading April 15, up from $2.1745 April 1, but well below the $2.939 copper was at the same time last year.

“We will continue to review our plans to ensure that we remain a strong company during this period and beyond. We have a long history of overcoming challenges, and I am confident we will do so again and go on to even greater achievements,” Higgins said.