Maytag’s leader says the future of the appliance maker’s production plant in Newton is in doubt. But C-E-O Ralph Hake says Maytag’s corporate offices will remain in Newton as long as he’s at the helm. “I think the heritage of this company and the fact that we’ve been around for 112 years and we started here is very important,” Hake says. “When I came here in 2001, one of the things I did is I built a house here and I said ‘As long as I’m here, the headquarters is going to be in Newton, Iowa…I don’t see that changing. As long as I’m here, the headquarters is going to be here.” Hake admits the company is going through tough times, but he says it’s surviving. He says he has never encountered someone in Newton who’s gotten downright nasty about Maytag’s woes. He says people in Newton are thoughtful, polite and concerned. “They offer me advice. Some of them differ, but they do it in a constructive way,” Hake says. “My wife and myself and m y dog live here. We go out about town all the time.”Hake is in negotiations with union leaders who represent workers at the Newton plant. Newton is among the plants vying to make the newest Neptune model — that’s Maytag’s energy-efficient, front-loading washer. “We want the union leadership and the membership here to know we would like to do that in Newton but they have other, internal competition for that product,” Hake says. “And if they choose to maintain their current wage, benefit and work rules we will not be able to make that investment here.” Maytag management says appliances are sold every day of the year, and they want to keep the plant open year long, with the flexibility of moving workers from one task for another. “A lean logistics system would produce tomorrow the products that are sold today, so to the extent that we have work rules be they mandatory shut-downs, be they the fact that we can’t work weekends without paying overtime, be they that we can’t move people internally in the plant when various products are more in demand than others without a significant bumping and people changing jobs,” Hake says. “All of those restrictions on job movement or work hours prevent us from serving customers well.” Hake spoke with reporters Thursday following the company’s shareholders meeting. You can hear the entire 14-and-a-half minute news conference on-line at wwww.radioiowa.com.
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