Electrolux Home Products is laying off 229 people at its St. Cloud, MN, U.S. plant and moving some of its production of small chest freezers to China.
The company said the layoffs, cutting 13 percent of its production workers, will be finished by Dec. 17. Most of the laid-off staff members are said to be junior-level workers. About 1,660 workers will remain.
Louie Neuman, a machinists union leader, said most of the lost jobs involved assembling 5-cu-ft, top-opening freezers, the company's smallest models. "The small chest freezer segment is a very cost-sensitive part of the business," Electrolux spokesman Tony Evans told the St. Cloud Times in November.
Mr. Evans could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Neuman said that by Jan. 3 the plant will have only two shifts instead of three, and that after the first quarter of 2005, those small freezers no longer will be made in St. Cloud. He said the workers get no severance pay because they're on indefinite layoff with a 2-year right to be at the head of the line for new openings. He doesn't expect many rehires, and he expressed concern that all the jobs could go.
"That's a big fear," he said, noting that in Michigan, Electrolux "is shutting down an operation of 2,600 employees and moving the operation to Juarez, Mexico, by the end of 2005."
That closing has made fears for the St. Cloud plant "a big concern," said Tom Moore, president of the St. Cloud Area Economic Development Partnership. Swedish-owned Electrolux is St. Cloud's fourth or fifth-largest employer, Mr. Moore said.
The laid-off workers are almost all considered unskilled. Skilled workers, by contrast, are in short supply. "If you were a welder, you could get a job in about six different companies," said Mr. Moore.
Mr. Neuman of the machinists union contended that losing the Electrolux plant would be devastating, affecting many other businesses, some that are vendors to the plant. (Star Tribune, AP)
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