Maytag lays off 170 employees

Maytag lays off 170 employees
Date February 27, 2004
By DAVID PITT

Associated Press Writer

DES MOINES — Layoffs were under way at the Maytag Corp. plant in Newton on Friday, marking a grim day for 170 production workers.

“Anytime you’ve got people losing their jobs, it’s kind of a down mood,” said Jim McCleary, financial secretary for Local 997 of the United Auto Workers union.

Maytag, the nation’s third-largest appliance maker, is based in Newton, a town of 15,579 people about 30 miles east of Des Moines.

In addition to Iowa, Maytag has plants in Illinois, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, California, Ohio, Texas and Mexico. The company declines to release the number of workers at individual locations, but claims 20,000 employees systemwide.

McCleary said the number of workers at the two major manufacturing divisions in Newton _ Maytag Appliances and Newton Laundry Products _ is down about 600 workers in the last few years.

“We need to review our staffing levels based on production schedules as part of being a market-driven manufacturer,” Maytag spokeswoman Lynn Dragomier said Tuesday as word of the latest layoffs began circulating.

The layoffs come just three months before the contract covering Maytag workers in Newton expires. Negotiations toward a new contract could begin as soon as April, McCleary said.

The Newton workers likely will be asked to make concessions, said Jim Repace, president of Local 1985 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents workers at Maytag’s plant in North Canton, Ohio. The plant is one of three making Hoover floor care products, including vacuum cleaners and floor polishers.

“I think they’re going to be facing some of the struggles we were facing here in North Canton,” Repace said of the Newton workers. “It’s a shame that it’s come to that, but it’s either that or the doors close.”

Under a new contract ratified in December, Maytag workers in North Canton and some retirees will pay more for health insurance and prescription drug coverage. The new contract also eliminated guarantees of specific job duties, giving the company greater flexibility over which models are being produced.

The new pact, which expires in 2008, did not cut wages, pensions, vacations or paid holidays, Repace said.

Maytag officials, saying foreign competition had driven down the price of vacuums, had told the IBEW they would consider moving jobs out of North Canton in 2005 unless workers agreed to the concessions.

“We’ve actually saved this American facility, and I think that’s important,” Repace said.

In Jan. 29 conference call with analysts, Maytag CEO Ralph Hake said the North Canton contract gives the company “necessary flexibility” while offering job security for many employees.

“It’s a model for preservation of jobs,” Hake said.

The North Canton plant cut 230 jobs this week. Another 130 workers will be laid off next month due to slow sales of the company’s Elite vacuum, the last upright vacuum to be made in the United States by unionized employees, Repace said.

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