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Slim Jim plant lays off 300 after blast

GARNER, N.C., Sept. 17 (UPI) -- ConAgra Foods Inc. will lay off about 300 of 750 people at a North Carolina snack food plant where three workers were killed in an explosion, the company said.

The layoffs at the Garner, N.C., plant, which makes Slim Jim brand meat snacks and was severely damaged in the June 9 blast, will begin in November, ConAgra said.

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The layoffs are a "necessary decision to ensure the long-term health of our Slim Jim business," spokesman Dave Jackson said in a statement.

Managers will tell employees privately in the next few weeks if they are to be let go, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported.

The company will also no longer pay employees not working at the plant. Since the explosion, the company has paid Garner employees, including dozens still recovering from their injuries, for 40 hours of work a week, the Observer said.

The decisions are "like a slap in the face," Calvin Sanders, who has worked at ConAgra for 15 years mixing meat, told the newspaper.

Johnetta Reddick, who still wears a neck brace from the blast, said she was "in prayer for the families that lost their jobs."

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Jackson said the Slim Jim plant was still operating at about 50 percent of its previous production capacity as a result of the explosion, which federal investigators concluded was caused by workers venting a natural gas line into an interior pump room.

Slim Jim meat snacks are popular in the United States, due in part to their unique texture, tangy taste and irreverent marketing. More than 500 million are produced annually in at least 20 varieties.

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