Maytag offers no answers on Hoover future

Maytag offers no answers on Hoover future
 
Date December 20, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By Edd Pritchard

Canton Repository

Special to the Daily News

NORTH CANTON — No major announcements were made following meetings Monday between Maytag Corp. and local officials.

And there were no answers to questions about the future of local Hoover operations.

“There was nothing earth shattering,” Mayor David Held said.

Maytag owns the Hoover factory and offices. The Iowa-based appliance maker has reduced the local work force during the last three years, and cuts have fueled concerns that Maytag might close local operations.

Maytag officials met with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1985 during the morning and with local government officials during the afternoon.

Jim Repace, Local 1985 president, called the session an informational meeting. Company officials reviewed the state of the floor-care business and Hoover’s year-to-date performance, as well as the cost structures for competing floor-care companies.

Union officials also heard about Project Phoenix, a program Maytag launched to review its business operations. An outside consulting firm hired by Maytag still is compiling a report and doesn’t expect to make any recommendations until early next year, Repace said.

“It’s my understanding that we will probably be facing some challenges during the first quarter,” Repace said.

Maytag is proceeding with changes that will cut about 300 hourly jobs from the local work force. The company is moving production of Hoover’s Eagle line cleaners to factories in the Southwest.

The changes with Hoover are taking place as Maytag moves forward on a proposed merger with Whirlpool Corp. The deal is supposed to close at the end of February, pending government approval.

Maytag shareholders are scheduled to meet Thursday to vote on the merger. A proxy statement sent to shareholders last month implies that Maytag plans to close operations in North Canton. The proxy also gives financial forecasts assuming the closure of the Newton appliance manufacturing plant.

Held said Maytag officials said the proxy statement makes assumptions about a closing, but that no decision has been made.

Maytag and Local 1985 have an agreement guaranteeing the company will keep 800 hourly jobs in North Canton until 2008, Held noted. The number will drop to about 775 because of the Eagle line cuts.

There also are about 200 salaried jobs in Hoover’s research operations, Held said.

Because of the labor agreement, Held remains optimistic that some jobs will remain.

“I think that right now, it looks promising,” he said, but added, “From a competitive standpoint, they are struggling.”

Held said he wants to maintain an open dialogue with Maytag.

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