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July 8, 2021

Abbott Labs will lay off more than 300 workers in southern Maine

Workers in neon vests and hardhats swarm over construction in a huge warehouse Photo / Tim Greenway In July 2020, workers renovated Abbott Laboratories' space in Westbrook, where the company expanded to produce COVID-19 tests.

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT), which went on a hiring spree in Maine last year to expand production of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, plans to lay off more than 300 workers in the state as demand for the tests declines.

The Chicago-based company is cutting 310 jobs at its Westbrook manufacturing facility, according to a notice filed Wednesday with the state. Another 100 workers will lose jobs at Abbott’s Scarborough plant, WMTW-TV reported.

“We’ve recently seen a significant, rapid decline in COVID-19 testing demand and anticipate this trend will continue. Because of this, we are reducing our workforce that produces rapid tests in Westbrook and Scarborough,” Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel said in a statement to Mainebiz.

“These sites will continue to play an important role in manufacturing tests for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases around the world. We’re grateful for the contributions our workers in Maine made to our country during the pandemic.”

Abbott apparently had seen the decline coming. In May, the company announced a plan to exit some of its COVID-19 test manufacturing arrangements, incurring $550 million to $700 million in contract cancellations, employee-related expenses and other costs. On June 1, the company adjusted its 2021 diluted earnings guidance downward from $3.74 per share to a range of $2.75 to $2.95, primarily as a result of changing demand for the tests.

During the early months of the pandemic, Abbott rushed to scale up test kit production in Maine. In rapid succession, the company leased and outfitted a new 126,000-square-foot facility in Westbrook, purchased its leased space in Scarborough, rented another 69,000 square feet there, and announced plans to hire 1,200 workers.

Prior to the pandemic, Abbott had 800 workers at the Scarborough site.

Of the new hires in Maine, only 300 were planned as permanent positions, the company said in August 2020. The wave of new workers supported manufacturing of Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test, a COVID diagnostic that’s about the size of a credit card and offers results in 15 minutes.

Binax was a Scarborough-based health care diagnostics maker purchased in 2005 by a Massachusetts company, Alere, which Abbott acquired in 2017.

Maine employees affected by the downsizing will be offered severance pay and outplacement services, and will be eligible for other positions within Abbott, Stoffel said.

Abbott has 109,000 employees in 160 countries, and produces diagnostics, medical devices, nutritional products and branded generic medicines. The company reported sales of $34.6 billion in 2020, up from $31.9 billion the previous year.

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