Haier Lays Off U.S. Workers
Nov 29, 2004
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The Haier refrigerator plant in Camden, SC, U.S. has laid off 96 workers, but the plant’s chief said he hopes to call some of them back next year as it expands production.

The plant had about 350 employees before the layoffs began early this month, said David Parks, president of Haier America. Better equipment now being installed at the plant means fewer workers will be needed when production ramps up again next year, he said.

That fuels the trend that has kept South Carolina’s job growth at a crawl and its jobless rate about 1 percentage point higher than the nation’s this year. In October, 6.5 percent of South Carolina’s work force could not find jobs.

South Carolina had 38,638 workers receiving unemployment checks in the week that ended Nov. 13, down from about 47,000 a year ago, said Allen Larson, director of unemployment insurance for the S.C. Employment Security Commission.

Haier has cut back its night shift while engineers and maintenance workers retool the plant to expand production with a new line of 13- to 21-cu-ft household refrigerators and freezers.

“I can’t change the tire while I’m driving down the highway,” Mr. Parks said.

Mr. Parks said a few workers already have been called back to fill openings from others who left the company through normal attrition, but added that higher productivity means the number called back to make the current line of refrigerator-freezers will be fewer than the number laid off.

Reaching and surpassing 350 workers will depend on sales of new products to be made at the plant. Mr. Parks would not estimate when that might occur.

Later next year, Haier workers at Camden will begin making upright freezers, chest freezers, and refrigerators with freezers on the bottom. The plant has been making refrigerators with freezers on the top since it opened in 2000.

Haier now has a 350,000-sq-ft plant sitting on 110 acres, plenty of room for the expansions Mr. Parks hopes will occur there. In the future, the plant also might make air-conditioners, a product Haier now makes elsewhere, he said. (The State)

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