Since July 2021, Abbott Laboratories has laid off more than 1,000 workers at its Westbrook manufacturing facility, shown here, and a plant in Scarborough. Photo courtesy of Abbott Laboratories

Days after Abbott Laboratories announced a layoff of 199 employees in Westbrook, a state notice posted Thursday shows the COVID-test maker laid off an even greater number there a few months ago.

Abbott cut 219 jobs in Westbrook on March 1, according to a Department of Labor website, bringing the number of Maine employees laid off by the company to more than 1,000 in the past two years.

Abbott, a Chicago-based pharmaceutical and medical device company, produces its BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test kits in Westbrook and Scarborough.

The recent two layoffs follow one in February and another in 2021, all of which the company has said came in response to dwindling demand for the self-administered tests.

In February, Abbott did not provide an exact count of laid-off workers, though a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification posted by the Labor Department indicated 234 workers were affected. Roughly 300 Westbrook workers were cut in July 2021 along with 100 in Scarborough.

Thursday’s layoff notification was submitted to the Labor Department in March, but was not posted immediately because of an internal error, a department spokesperson said.


Abbott boosted its production of test kits in Maine at the start of the pandemic. The company originally had facilities in Scarborough and Illinois, then expanded into a renovated sporting goods distribution center in Westbrook later in 2020.

But demand began to fall the following year.

“COVID has transitioned to a more endemic seasonal type of respiratory virus, so we’ve continued to adjust our workforce to align with those market conditions,” Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel said Tuesday.

Financial results released last month showed the company’s worldwide revenue from COVID-19 testing sales plummeted 77.9% from $3.3 billion in the first quarter of 2022 to $730 million in the first quarter of 2023. Abbott reported revenue of $43.7 billion in 2022, and has over 115,000 employees worldwide.


Despite the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification information, it’s hard to say exactly how many positions Abbott has eliminated in Maine.


Under federal law, a company that is eliminating at least one-third of its workforce or over 500 employees must notify local and state officials. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act and Maine’s own severance-pay law require a company to notify permanent employees of a layoff 60 days in advance, or lay them off immediately with 60 days of pay and benefits, Maine labor attorney Jeffrey Young said.

Under the federal act, workers hired for temporary projects or at temporary facilities “who clearly understand the temporary nature of the work when hired” are not eligible for these federal protections. In Maine, only employees who have worked at a company for three or more years qualify for required severance and notice.

Abbott has hired many temporary employees through multiple temp agencies, according to the Peer Workforce Navigator program, which provides job assistance.

Aerotek is one of those temp agencies, and posted the February layoff notice. Since Abbott is not the direct employer, Peer Workforce Navigator’s Catherine Buxton said, many temporary positions have been eliminated without Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications to the Labor Department.

“Abbott has been pretty clear that these folks are not their employees, despite getting a paycheck, paid to the temporary agency and then to the employee, and in spite of working alongside permanent Abbott employees,” she said.



Judith Pelletier with the Labor Department said it can’t confirm how many additional employees were working at Abbott. But she did say that there are former Abbott workers hired through temporary agencies that have been laid off that haven’t been included in the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications.

To fill in those gaps and provide workforce assistance to former Abbott employees now out of work, Peer Workforce Navigator has been creating its own count of former Abbott employees whose jobs have recently been eliminated. The organization is working with community partners including the Congolese Association of Maine, Presente! Maine and Prosperity Maine.

By Feb. 8, Peer Workforce Navigator believed 750 employees were laid off. By the end of March, that number reached roughly 1,000, Program Director Kate Fahey said.

Peer Workforce Navigator and the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition also believe that a majority of those employees were in temporary positions and that a majority are immigrants.

Abbott is declining to offer information about how many temporary employees have been laid off and what assistance is being offered to them. Attempts to contact Aerotek have been unsuccessful.

“Many (had) no days notice – they got a text message the morning that they were supposed to go into work on Monday, or they’d walk into their production facility in Westbrook and their badges didn’t work and that’s how they knew they didn’t have a job anymore,” Buxton said.

Stoffel said that the May 16 layoffs were effective immediately, and in February told the Press Herald that temporary workers were offered 10 days of severance pay.

For now, Peer Workforce Navigator, its partner organizations and Pelletier with the Labor Department’s Rapid Response Program are all working to distill information in various languages about the resources former employees can turn to for help with training and career opportunities, unemployment benefits and health insurance options.

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