Whirlpool announces changes to bring about layoffs

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Whirlpool Corporation, based in Benton Harbor, announced on Tuesday that people are losing their jobs locally and other big changes are in store for the company’s internal organization.

According to a statement released to ABC 57 News Tuesday morning, Whirlpool making changes to its North American operation. "The changes are designed to create a more streamlined organization, allowing the company to operate more effectively, and to adapt more quickly, in current and forecasted market conditions," reads the statement.

Layoffs were confirmed by Whirlpool officials, but the exact number was not released. A company spokesperson says the layoffs will be spread among locations across the U.S. and Canada. Employees affected were notified on Monday.

“It’s a loss just like when someone close to you dies,” says a former Whirlpool employee who wished to stay anonymous. He was laid off in the months leading to this announcement and wanted his identity concealed because of a confidentiality contract he signed with Whirlpool. “The days of our fathers or our mothers hiring with a company and working for the rest of their lives, those (days) don’t exist anymore,” he said.

The employee said the writing was on the wall. In a tough economy, demand has been low for appliances. "This is a difficult, but necessary adjustment as we address a volatile marketplace in which demand for major appliances is currently at recessionary levels," said Kristine Vernier in a prepared statement.

Michigan Works! a Benton Harbor organization says they’re ready to help some of the newly unemployed find jobs close to Saint Joseph and Benton Harbor. “Blue-collar workers coming from a manufacturing plant, or white-collar workers maybe coming from Whirlpool, we’re ready to meet any job seekers needs,” says Megan McCausland with Michigan Works!.

McCausland says highly skilled, highly educated employees from Whirlpool should easily be able to find a new job. “These are all skills that are valuable to businesses in our area,” she says.

The former employee says he has been looking since he got a pink slip. “We’d love to stay if we can, but you also have to feed your kids,” he says. Other than Whirlpool there aren’t many other places to work.

According to employees ABC 57 spoke to Tuesday, the layoff doesn't look to be as drastic as Whirlpool's last corporate layoff. In 2008, 300 employees were let go in Saint Joseph and Benton Harbor.

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