The Electrolux fridge factory at Orange in Australia’s NSW state is pulling down its shutters on Tuesday, leaving 300 personnel jobless as it moves the production overseas. The move is going to be a big blow to Australia’s manufacturing sector.
Among the 300 employees, 210 will have their last working day on Tuesday while 90 will stay on for another eight months until the plant is decommissioned.
The Electrolux plant has produced 12 million fridges since it started in the 1940s and its closure means curtains for more than 70 years of white goods manufacturing in Orange. The plant had an average daily production of 1,300 fridges and had been contributing more than $70 million annually to the NSW economy, reports Daily Telegraph.
Electrolux announced the relocation of production in 2013 and said it wanted to consolidate its Asia Pacific refrigeration capacity. That time, managing director John Brown said manufacturing operations in Australia would be wound down ‘in a gradual and orderly manner’ from late 2015 and through 2016 although the R&D centre will remain in Australia for two more years.
Electrolux management believes that making fridges in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe is more cost effective than in Australia.
The factory started off in 1942 as a World War II munitions plant and made household goods such as fans, stoves, washing machines and freezers. Later on, the plant restricted its production to fridges only.
In the 1970s, the factory employed more than 2000 people and the Queen even paid a royal visit to the factory.
According to the plant’s general manager Mark O’Kane the closure is a big blow to the township of Orange and the Australian manufacturing industry in general.
The Daily Mail in a report mentioned O’Kane for his tribute to the staff for handling the plant’s closure with finesse and their consistent focus on quality and safety.
“There are millions of products in Australian and New Zealand homes every day being used; that’s a tremendous legacy,” he said.
Many employees at the factory said the closure would “be like leaving part of their family behind”
One of them, Cheryl Seymour, who spent nearly three decades at the factory said, “it is going to be an emotional farewell.”