The head of the local union representing more than 300 employees affected by the planned closure of the Bloomington GE Appliances plant says he had been aware of the possibility for "quite some time." IBEW Local 2249 President William Fairbairn says, when an operation is losing up to $25 million per year, "you can pretty much figure out that you’re not going to be complimentary to the portfolio." He says the good news is more than 98 percent of the affected union employees are eligible for a retirement package with full benefits.
Fairbairn says he does not put any of the blame on Haier, which acquired GE Appliances earlier this year. He says the "simple math" shows the operation was not sustainable. The plant, which has an annual operating salary of $23 million, is projected to lose $25 million this year. Fairbairn says that means all of the employees could work for free for a year, and the operation would still lose millions of dollars.
The company and union will now begin "decision negotiations." He says those talks will not be about saving the plant, but how the decision will affect employees. Although nearly all of the union workers are eligible to pull a retirement pension, some prefer to keep working. He says GE Corporate has pledged "preferred placement" for affected employees that want to continue with the company.
Fairbairn says putting the blame on Haier for the closure is "not reality," but believes the previous owners at GE Corporate continually "kicked the can down the road" instead of making meaningful investments in the plant. He says the union has a good relationship with Haier, adding, "I intend to keep it that way."
Fairbairn believes the plant’s previous owners “kicked the can down the road” rather than making necessary investments.