Maytag Unions Concerned about Job Cuts
Jul 27, 2005
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With Maytag Corp. the focus of two takeover offers, unions representing workers at the appliance maker cited concerns about job cuts if the company were sold.

Maytag agreed to a bid of U.S. $1.1 billion, or $14 a share cash, from a group tied to private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings in May, but said this week that a sweetened offer of $1.4 billion, or $18 a share in cash and stock, from larger rival Whirlpool Corp. may result in a better deal.

In a statement, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers asked Maytag's board to reject any sale that would lead to widespread job losses or transfer of work to low-wage areas.

The statement said the appliance and vacuum cleaner maker "can and should seek a commitment from any potential buyer to keep the company's jobs and facilities" in present locations.

"We're not taking sides in this, but we do think the board has a responsibility to do more than just look at what's the highest price," said Steve Sleigh, head of Strategic Resources for the machinists. "The employees should be taken into consideration as well."

The machinist union, which represents nearly 4,000 Maytag workers, said thousands of jobs have been lost over the past year as Maytag closed a refrigerator-making plant in Galesburg, IL, U.S., and shifted much of its work to Reynosa, Mexico.

Maytag has said closing that plant will save costs and help it compete better amid increased competition from foreign rivals with lower fixed expenses.

Ted Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 997 in Maytag's hometown of Newton, IA, U.S., said members of his union are also uneasy. About 1,300 are employed at Maytag's Newton plant.
"People don't know whether they are going to have jobs or not," Mr. Johnson said. "As time goes on, we just seem to be getting further and further into the unknown."

Whirlpool, the maker of KitchenAid appliances, employs union labor in the U.S. and Europe, spokesman Stephen Duthie said. "We've got frank and cordial relationships with all our unionized employees," he added.

If Maytag is sold, Mr. Johnson said he hopes the new owner will make job preservation a priority. "Our hope would be that somebody is interested in revitalizing this plant and letting us do what we do best, which is make washers and dryers," he said.

Maytag had no comment on the union request. (Reuters)

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