By James Wells

Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA: Whirlpool has announced it will fire 1,200 workers in Arkansas and Indiana as well as shift production of some appliances to Mexico in order to reduce costs in the company’s latest round of rationalisation since the $US1.7 billion acquisition of Maytag.

A statement distributed by Whirlpool said the company will cut 700 jobs at its Fort Smith plant in Arkansas in the first half of the 2008 calendar year and move the production to a refrigerator factory in Ramos Arizpe in Mexico.

According to the report, an additional 500 workers will be fired in 2007 at Evansville in Indiana because of declining demand for top-mounted refrigerators.

Whirlpool purchased rival American whitegoods manufacturer Maytag for $US1.68 billion to increase the company’s global market share and retain the title as the world’s largest manufacturer in the industry.

Earlier this year, the company cut 940 jobs at the Arkansas plant and increased production at the Mexico plant. Whirlpool has also relocated workers and production from Maytag’s previous headquarters at Newton in Iowa, to other factories in Ohio and Amana in Iowa.

“Whirlpool Corporation today announced a series of changes to several of its North American manufacturing facilities. The changes are part of an ongoing comprehensive worldwide effort to optimise the company’s regional manufacturing facilities, supply base, product platforms and technology resources to better support its leading global brands with innovative products,” the statement said.

“As part of the ongoing global initiative, Whirlpool is optimising production capacity and continuing to build innovative product platforms at its North American manufacturing facilities. The company is also adjusting its workforce levels at several of its North American manufacturing facilities to optimise production levels and take advantage of its expanded manufacturing footprint.

"Whirlpool’s leadership position in the appliance industry is built on our ability to offer consumers a portfolio of leading brand names supported by innovative products and services," said Whirlpool North America president, David L. Swift.

"These initiatives strengthen Whirlpool’s industry leading position while also improving productivity and efficiency across our North American manufacturing platform,” Swift said.

"The workforce adjustments include the expansion of the company’s Ohio-based laundry manufacturing operations to support innovation and capacity requirements for additional brands. As previously announced, the expansion includes the creation of more than 1,100 jobs in Ohio, split evenly between the existing facilities in Clyde and Marion. Whirlpool has nearly completed equipment installation at the Clyde and Marion facilities and production is scheduled to begin before the end of the year," the statement said.

"The adjustments also include the expansion of manufacturing capacity for bottom freezer refrigeration products at the Amana, Iowa, manufacturing facility. As previously announced, the expansion will support innovation and capacity requirements for additional brands, and includes the creation of up to 400 new jobs in Amana.

"Whirlpool is also planning to expand production of side-by-side refrigeration products at its Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, refrigeration manufacturing facility beginning in 2007. Once that expansion is complete, approximately 700 employees at the Whirlpool facility in Fort Smith, Ark., are expected to be laid off the first half of 2008 as additional models currently manufactured in Fort Smith will move to the Ramos Arizpe plant. Whirlpool recently completed the voluntary layoff of about 940 employees in Fort Smith by transferring production of some models to the Ramos Arizpe facility.

"Whirlpool also is planning to adjust production levels at its Evansville, Ind., top freezer refrigeration products manufacturing facility in 2007. Projections for lower consumer demand for top freezer products will result in a layoff of about 500 employees from the Evansville facility.

"These adjustments reflect the strategic role of the company’s North American manufacturing base within its global manufacturing and distribution network. Products from the North American facilities are sold to consumers in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and in markets around the world."