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Maytag Officials Say Searcy Plant Doing Well Despite Cuts
Jun 17, 2004
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While acknowledging the company faces an array of problems elsewhere, Maytag officials say only a handful of employees have lost jobs at its Searcy, AK, U.S. facility, and overall, the manufacturing plant is doing well.

"Production is two-and-a-half times what it was a year ago, and employment has doubled over the last year," said Jeff Durham, director of Operations at the Searcy plant. "For the month of March, total production was the greatest in the history of the plant."

Mr. Durham said the Searcy operation was a "victim of unfortunate timing," in that a periodic adjustment in the local production schedule -- affecting workers hired through the Staffmark employment agency -- corresponded with a company announcement that it was laying off 1,100 salaried Maytag employees. The layoff is 20 percent of its U.S. workforce.

The two events, said Mr. Durham, are unrelated.

"We've had six line-rate adjustments over the last year, and all of them were up," he said. "We communicated with our employees in our regular meetings [last week] that adjustments were planned. We told them that some Staffmark associates may lose their assignment, some may stop working in one department and move to another, and some may lose their position entirely. But based on our current turnover rates, not one person may lose their jobs."

Maytag uses Staffmark because the plant needs "supplemental" workers when volume dictates, Mr. Durham said. "A lot" of the Staffmark workers have moved on to become permanent Maytag employees, he said.

As for the company-wide layoffs, Mr. Durham as well as Lynne Dragomier, a Maytag company spokeswoman, have continued to decline requests asking exactly how many workers in Searcy lost their jobs. When the layoffs were first announced, Ms. Dragomier would only say that "some" local workers lost their jobs.

"It's our right not to give numbers," she said. "We want to treat our employees in the most dignified manner possible, and we believe we shouldn't say that they were one of 'x' number of people let go."

The layoffs were part of a corporate restructuring related to lackluster sales in Maytag's Hoover line of floor care products. The Searcy plant, one of four Maytag plants producing washers and dryers, is not directly related to Hoover products, although the restructuring has affected employees at each company locale, said Ms. Dragomier.

But laundry product production has been disrupted by a strike at the company's Newton, Iowa plant. There is some "flexibility" in shifting production between plants, said Ms. Dragomier, but "production is not transferred easily or lightly."

She declined to say what products are produced at the Searcy and Newton plants, or if there is duplication of product lines at the plants.

Additionally, Maytag has been under tremendous pressure from market analysts to send production overseas, she said.

"Analyst reports say that Maytag has too much domestic production," Ms. Dragomier said. "This is a global economy, but we want to preserve U.S. manufacturing for Maytag.

"Maytag is taking steps to preserve domestic jobs," she continued. "We're taking costs out in other ways. Yes, we've outsourced some of our supply purchases to Mexico, but that's a way to preserve U.S. manufacturing."

For now, she added, the Searcy plant is meeting expectations for four company benchmarks: quality, delivery, cost, and safety.

"Searcy is doing well," Ms. Dragomier says. (The Daily Citizen)

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