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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- An unexpected shutdown at General Electric's Appliance Park will put more than 500 jobs in Louisville in flux.
Bonnie Kinzer knows the features of the new GE French Door refrigerator inside and out: :This is 29 cubic foot," she explains, "so the capacity is very large." It's $2800 on sale, and new to the market within the last year.
And as Kinzer makes sure to point out: "This is made right here in Louisville."
The refrigerator is a top seller at Bonnycastle Appliance in the Highlands. The only problem, according to GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman, is that, "Right now we're producing more than we're selling."
That's because not enough people are buying. Freeman says, "Starting Feb. 25th we're going to have a lack of work in our Building Five refrigeration plant."
The second shift will be temporarily eliminated, with 550 people told to stay home. The company says it's a lack of work period, not a layoff. Employees will be able to collect unemployment and keep their benefits.
"2013 is starting out slow," Freeman explains, "and 2012 ended a lot lower than we expected. The industry was down about one million units."
That is one of four new products that GE launched at Appliance park in 2012. They hired 2500 new workers to do the job, and now some of those same workers are wondering if they'll soon be looking for work again.
WDRB has learned other units have recently seen these same lack of work weeks, and 85 new employees who were expecting to start on Monday were told to stay home.
Workers told WDRB's Gilbert Corsey they didn't want to speak on camera, fearing they wouldn't be brought back at all.
When asked whether this was just the precursor to a termination or a layoff coming down the road," Freeman responded, "We have absolutely no plans for a layoff. There's no plans for that anywhere in the future....I know that this can be worrisome, but we've been here 60 years and we plan to be here another 60, and Building Five and all of Appliance Park has a bright future."
It's a future that Kinzer says is coming soon: "Spring," she says, "because people are remodeling. They're getting back into building."
GE representativess tell WDRB News they will try to use some of the displaced workers as fill-ins in other parts of Appliance Park. Estimates are that could keep more than 100 on the job.