Layoffs Expected at GE Refrigerator Factory
Jul 21, 2004
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A union leader said he believed General Electric Corp. soon will announce a major layoff at its Bloomington refrigerator plant -- perhaps cutting the jobs of as much as a third of its 1,800 workers.

"By the end of July, we could see a layoff announcement that would cost us 500 to 600 jobs," Glenn Collins, president of Local 2249 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, told The Herald-Times

Kim Freeman, a spokeswoman for Louisville, KY-based GE, said the company was discussing ways its side-by-side refrigerator line could sell better. Production sites were among the factors under consideration.

"We are reviewing improvements that need to be made to our midline, 22- and 25-cubic-foot refrigerators to make them more competitive in the marketplace," she told The Associated Press.

GE manufactures those refrigerator lines in Bloomington and Celaya, Mexico, Ms. Freeman said.

Moving work to Mexico would create significant savings in production costs. When GE announced in December 1999 that it would move 1,400 jobs from Bloomington to Mexico, the average worker in Bloomington cost GE about U.S. $24 per hour in wages and benefits, compared with $2 an hour in Mexico.

Mr. Collins said he expected layoffs to be announced about the time the plant shuts down for a scheduled 1-week summer break on July 30.

"There has to be a 6-month notice," Mr. Collins said. "So that means it probably will come at the end of the month."

Local 2249, which represents hourly workers at the Bloomington plant, has a four-year contract that expires in 2007.

During GE's annual shareholder meeting in April, CEO Jeffrey Immelt said moving jobs overseas was part of doing business in a global economy. He noted that half of GE's sales were outside the U.S.

At the time of GE's announcement less than 5 years ago that it would move 1,400 jobs to Mexico, a company spokesman said GE would offset the Bloomington job loss with $100 million in equipment upgrades for the plant.

"This investment will allow us to preserve approximately 1,800 jobs in Bloomington for the long term," the spokesman, Terry Dunn, said at the time. (The Associated Press)

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