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Nearly three weeks after a court ruling stopped manufacturing giant Pratt & Whitney from shipping 1,000 jobs out of the state, the company announced Tuesday that it would be eliminating 163 union jobs in Connecticut.
The cuts will occur at the Cheshire engine overhaul facility and a smaller facility in East Hartford on March 12, the company said. Pratt had announced last September that it planned to close both facilities and move the work out of state, a decision that was ultimately overruled by U.S. Judge Janet Hall, stating her belief that the company violated the union agreement. On Feb. 23, Pratt let the union know that it would be cutting 163 jobs, with a total of 119 coming from the Cheshire plant.
"We informed the union that we are having volume related reductions," said Pratt spokesman Gregory Brostowicz. "We are seeking volunteers, but those that will be laid off will be on March 12."
In addition to the layoffs, it was also announced that Pratt planned to appeal the Feb. 5 court decision barring the company from moving the jobs out of state and completely closing both facilities.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 26, said that, while the collective bargaining agreement allows the union to seek out volunteers to accept the layoffs, union leadership was not given a chance to seek alternatives. In a press release issued Tuesday evening, the union said employees are being asked to work overtime in the same areas in which Pratt & Whitney claims there is a lack of work.
"The top brass of Pratt and UTC were caught in lie after lie during the court trial. They should have owned up to their mistakes and sat down with us," said Everett Corey, IAM District 26’s Directing Business Representative. "Instead, they think they can save face by punishing workers. It’s outrageous. If they want a fight, they will get one."
Pratt President David Hess sent a company wide e-mail Tuesday afternoon informing workers of the intent to layoff 163 employees. In the e-mail, Hess said that "nothing in the court's decision changes the economic realities" the company is facing. He said the problems "cannot be ignored" and would not solve themselves. He said the way to deal with the economic reality and declining customer demand was to layoff employees.
"Restructuring decisions are always difficult, but necessary: No decision is more difficult for us than to restructure a facility and eliminate or move jobs," Hess wrote. "The impact on families and communities is significant, and these decisions are never taken lightly. But, unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of considering only the fate of the employees who are directly affected by this decision. I need to think about all 36,000 employees of Pratt & Whitney and the company's long-term health and competitiveness."
James Parent, IAM District 26 Assistant Directing Business Representative and chief IAM negotiator, hopes that the company will be willing to work with the union in an effort to save jobs.
"My message to Pratt is simple, work with us to save jobs," Parent said. "The same people who orchestrated the plant-closing fiasco for Pratt are pushing these layoffs. If they want to start cutting jobs, that’s the people they should start with."
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal released a statement shortly after the announcement of the layoffs came from Pratt & Whitney. He felt the layoffs conflicted with the spirit, "if not the letter" of the court's recent decision.
"This decision will simply add cost and friction with minimal prospects of success in overturning a powerful and persuasive judicial ruling. The company would seem to be better served by seeking common ground with its workers rather than extending this conflict in the courts," Blumenthal said. "My hope is the company will reconsider its appeal, which may well be undecided before the end of the present contract."
Union leadership now appears to have their plate full by fighting the company's court appeal, stopping the 163 layoffs, and hammering out a new union contract, which expires in December.