ELECTROLUX management told workers yesterday at the Orange plant they had to prove in the next six months they could produce fridges cheaper than production lines in Thailand and other parts of the world or the plant would close.
Electrolux managing director John Brown travelled from Sydney to stand alongside Orange plant manager Mark O’Kane as the news was delivered to workers that the plant is to embark on a six-month investment study with results to determine the plant’s future.
“The worst-case scenario is that Orange will continue to produce fridges until 2015,” Electrolux corporate communications manager Craig McCarthy said.
Mr McCarthy said he understood the announcement’s impact on staff, some of whom are fourth generation workers at the plant.
“We understand this may come as a shock to some people but it is definitely not a fait accompli at this stage until our study is complete,” he said. “And the study will be carried out internally by staff at the Orange plant.”
Mr McCarthy said last week’s announcement of a $4.7 million federal government grant to the Orange plant to reduce carbon emissions was not connected to yesterday’s announcement.
“That is something completely separate, and after all there could be a change of government this year bringing with it a change to the commitment by the federal government,” he said.
“It is just a coincidence the announcements have been made around the same time.”
Mr McCarthy said looking at improving efficiencies at the Orange plant was nothing new for Electrolux.
“This has been a constant process for us,” he said.
“A new generation of energy-efficient fridges to be produced for a global market has prompted the study in which Electrolux’s Orange plant has to prove it can compete on an international level.”
Mr McCarthy denied the Orange Electrolux plant had outlived its use.
“Orange is an absolutely fantastic plant and many people have worked hard over the years to make that possible,” he said.
Orange mayor John Davis said he was optimistic Electrolux could hold its own against other markets.
“With this study taking six months it gives Orange an opportunity to prove just how good it really is,” Cr Davis said.