Layoffs continue at Maytag

Layoffs continue at Maytag
Date April 23, 2004
Section(s) Local News
Brief

(AP) — Maytag Corp. officials told its workers’ union that about 110 employees would be laid off in Newton today, just two months after Maytag laid off 170 production workers.

“It’s sad,” said Pat Teed, president of the workers’ union, Local 997 of the United Auto Workers.

Lynne Dragomier, a Maytag spokeswoman, confirmed workers would be laid off but said the company doesn’t disclose numbers.

“This is a business decision based on volume requirements,” she said. Maytag’s laundry business is up overall, but demand is down for models produced at Newton, Dragomier said.

Maytag’s Newton factories produce washers and dryers, but Maytag has said Newton won’t get a shot at manufacturing newer model lines until costs are cut and improvements are made in key performance areas.

Layoffs dating back to 2002 push the number to nearly 700, with about 1,525 production workers still on the job, union officials said. In the mid-1990s, the number of active workers was 2,600.

The layoffs come a day after Maytag reported higher sales and profits for the first three months of 2004.

The new round of cutbacks added to the uneasiness among workers and townspeople.

“There’s a lot of tension around,” said union member Aaron Baker.

Teed put much of the blame for the layoffs on Bush Administration trade policies that, Teed said, encourage foreign competition that’s cut into Maytag’s business and its work force.

“Seven hundred taxpaying citizens trying to support their families laid off because of this global economy and all the imports coming in,” Teed said.

David James, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, disagreed with Teed’s assessment. Bush administration economic policies are adding significant job growth to the economy, James said.

Teed noted that Maytag also has factories in Mexico, which have taken jobs from U.S. workers.

Dragomier said that number is minimal.

Under the union contract, laid off workers retain the right to be recalled to their jobs if they are needed. Many workers hope that will be the case.

Others appear to be moving ahead to a life without Maytag.

Among previously laid off Maytag workers, 544 have completed paperwork to become eligible for retraining through a federal program, according to the state agency that administers the program. About 270 are currently enrolled in classes or have completed training.

The new layoffs come as the union and company negotiate a new contract to replace an agreement set to expire June 1.

Workers questioned whether the layoffs are part of the company’s bargaining strategy.

They are not, said Dragomier.

The union and company haven’t commented on negotiations.

In a telephone call with analysts, Ralph Hake, Maytag chairman and chief executive, said the company has built up its inventory as part of contingency planning associated with the labor talks.

Laid off workers also are eligible for government unemployment benefits and for supplemental pay from a union fund. Together the benefits can amount to 85 percent of a worker’s base take-home pay.

With all the layoffs, however, the fund is running low and could be out of money in a few weeks, Teed said.

The latest layoff list includes workers with up to seven years with Maytag.

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