LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The tight Louisville job market has forced GE Appliances to raise pay for entry-level workers at Louisville Appliance Park to $14 an hour, the company said Tuesday.

GE Appliances began hiring at $12 an hour in February after the park’s workforce approved a labor contract that created a second tier of lower-paid workers – part of the company’s plan to become more “competitive” in manufacturing appliances.

But, as the president of the local union representing park workers predicted, the $12 per hour starting wasn’t competitive for attracting workers in Louisville, where the metro-area unemployment rate stands at 5 percent.

“The Louisville labor market continues to be very tight and is causing challenges in attracting and retaining production employees here at the Park. We’ve all seen it . . . you can’t drive around the city without seeing hiring signs everywhere,” GE Appliances said in a message to employees on Tuesday.

As a result, about 280 workers hired since February will get an immediate bump to $14 per hour, GE Appliances spokeswoman Kim Freeman said.

There about 175 open jobs at the park, which makes washers and dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators, among other appliances.  

Before workers approved the contract in January, starting pay was about $15 an hour at the park.

Under the new contract, the lower-tier workers were to be phased into a $14 per hour wage over a period no longer than two years. Now the change will occur immediately.

Dana Crittendon, president of IUE-CWA Local 83-761, which represents more than 3,600 rank-and-file workers at the park, applauded the change.

Crittendon said the biggest challenge with the lower wage is keeping workers from bolting to higher-paying jobs shortly after being hired. 

The union reluctantly agreed to add a second tier of lower-paid workers during contract negotiations in late 2016.

"We told the company over and over again, you can drive past any corner in Louisville" and see temp agency signs advertising wages higher than $12 an hour, Crittendon said. "There is no way we are going to compete with those guys."

To apply for a job at GE Appliances, visit: http://www.geappliances.com/manufacturing-jobs/

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.