The more than 400 jobs created with a second shift of production at Whirlpool’s Fort Smith plant will be lost when the shift ends Aug. 31, according to sources close to the situation.
“This of course is all dependent on orders. If they get those (more orders) or if the economy goes better than we all think it will and is strong then (August), production could continue,” noted one source.
An official with Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. would not comment on production specifics.
“As we communicated in December, the second shift is expected to be needed through the summer. We are not providing a specific date,” Jill Saletta, director of external communications for Whirlpool, noted in an e-mail to The City Wire.
Whirlpool was expected to begin the second shift Jan. 25.
The sources say supervisors brought back on temporary contracts through an employment agency have been told their contracts will end Aug. 31 when the second shift ends. If this happens, it confirms previous reports that employment and production gains at Whirlpool are short term and not part of a broader plan to secure production in Fort Smith.
Insiders have said production from the second shift is intended to build up inventory while the company’s plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, is down for retooling. Also, production of counter-depth refrigerators now in Fort Smith is expected to move to the Ramos plant beginning in the third quarter of 2010.
Whirlpool has declined to comment on its production plans.
The future of Whirlpool’s Fort Smith plant has been a cause for concern following the November 2003 announcement by Whirlpool of a global reorganization plan. The news since November 2003 has been troubling, with Whirlpool announcing numerous production cuts and layoffs that has seen employment in Fort Smith drop from about 4,600 in early 2006 to between 1,300-1,500 today. The last hit came in August 2009, when the company cut about 40 salaried and about 250 hourly jobs.