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59 Charleston port employees accept buyout offer

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Fifty-nine employees of the S.C. State Ports Authority have accepted an early retirement buyout offer from the port. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

The S.C. State Ports Authority offered 96 employees a buyout in an effort to streamline operations and save money, and 59 have accepted the offer.

The Charleston-based maritime agency offered an early separation to all employees who qualified for retirement when the agency implemented a culture change initiative in 2015.

The port expects “significant savings” from the $4 million in buyouts, spokeswoman Erin Dhand said in an email.

Ports CEO Jim Newsome said in 2015 that he wanted to review and improve operations ahead of major port projects, such as building a new terminal in North Charleston and deepening Charleston Harbor. He said that he expected significant turnover in the port’s workforce in the coming years and that he wanted to ensure the agency was ready to recruit top talent.

The board approved the plan, which involved restructuring the executive team, improving company culture and offering future buyouts to workers nearing retirement age.

“I think it’s reasonable for a CEO to review an organization every five years,” Newsome said in 2015. “We’re going into our most difficult five-year period. ... Our organization needs to be the best it can be.”

The buyout program ran from June 30, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016. The plan does not involve layoffs.

Employees who have worked at the port for five to nine years will receive 26 weeks of pay; employees with 10 to 14 years will receive 38 weeks of pay; and those who have been with the port for 15 years or more will receive 52 weeks of pay, Dhand said in an email.

The port plans to evaluate whether each position will be filled going forward; many will not be, Dhand said.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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