Whirlpool employees in Fort Smith received Thursday (Dec. 1) an “Effects Update” that outlines the “separation benefits” the company will offer hourly and salaried employees.
Officials with Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. announced Oct. 27 they would close the Fort Smith plant by mid-2012. The closure will result in the loss of about 1,000 jobs. However, the company employed around 4,600 in Fort Smith during early 2006. The closure will mark the end of more than 45 years of Whirlpool operations in Fort Smith.
Whirlpool officials and the union met Nov. 22 to talk about employee benefits related to the closing. According to the two-page sheet given to employees, Whirlpool said the union has not followed through with information requests.
“The union has not presented the company with its list of issues for Effects Bargaining yet, nor let the company know when it is willing to get back together,” noted the update memo.
However, several Whirlpool employees told our content partner, The City Wire, the union delay results from not receiving requested information from Whirlpool. The City Wire was unable to contact union officials late Thursday.
Holiday pay, vacation policies, severance plans, healthcare coverage, separation benefits and performance incentives were included in the outline. Specifics of the various benefits include:
• Current and future retirees will be eligible for the medical and prescription drug benefits provided to salaried employees with the annual enrollment date set for Jan. 1, 2013;
• Healthcare coverage will be continued for the balance of the month an employee is laid off plus three additional months;
• Three holidays for 2012 will be pulled up for pay purposes and paid when the plant closes;
• A complicated “Supplemental Unemployment Benefit” plan is designed to provide “a continuation of pay” for each year of Whirlpool employment, with the pay maxed at 26 weeks from the time of layoff; and,
• A performance incentive plan will generate monthly bonuses if measures tied to safety, assembly rates and other operational factors.
“All employees, including Salaried, are eligible for the Performance Incentive as long as they remain on the payroll until their jobs are eliminated,” Whirlpool noted in the benefits document. “The objective is to encourage continued focus on our performance between now and the time the plant closes.”
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.