IAM Sues To Keep Pratt Jobs in Connecticut

 - September 23, 2009, 10:01 AM

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has filed a complaint in federal court in an attempt to block Pratt & Whitney from moving 830 union jobs out of Connecticut. All told, Pratt & Whitney’s plans to close its engine repair shop in Cheshire, Conn., by early 2011 and move some work from its East Hartford facility starting during next year’s second quarter to Singapore, Japan and Columbus, Ga., will result in the loss of some 1,000 positions.

The union said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford that the engine company acted in bad faith by failing to make “every reasonable effort” to keep employment at its current level. The sides met several times over the past weeks, but failed to reach a settlement.

The state of Connecticut this month offered Pratt & Whitney some $100 million worth of incentives over five years in an effort to keep the jobs in the state. The offer included lifting a cap on tax credits for parent company United Technologies, establishing a tax credit for job retention and training assistance, as well as plant and equipment investments.

According to the court complaint, Pratt & Whitney told the union it would accept a package of concessions that would save the company $53.8 million a year. However, the proposal would have required reopening the union’s current agreement and extending it for another three years. The union argues that Pratt & Whitney knew that it couldn’t agree to the extension without going through an “extensive” process involving negotiating committees from each of the three Connecticut plants.

Although the sides met on several occasions and agreed to some modifications to the deal, the union claims that Pratt didn’t make “every reasonable effort” to preserve either the Cheshire engine overhaul and repair work or the East Hartford turbine airfoil repair work.

Pratt & Whitney, for its part, insisted it did all it could to reach a deal with the union. “As we have made clear, the decision to close these facilities was made only after making every effort to identify alternatives that would make these businesses competitive,” it said in a statement. “We have followed the process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement and we genuinely made an honest, good faith effort to preserve the work in Connecticut.

“The company explored all options to preserve this work including assigning millions in extra value to options that kept jobs in Connecticut; holding some 20 separate meetings with the IAM; making ourselves available 24/7 to meet; extending the meet-and-confer period for one week at the union’s request; presenting a reasonable proposal to union leadership that would have kept this work in Connecticut, which the leadership rejected without holding a vote of union membership; and meeting with local, state and federal officials to discuss options and alternatives.

“Unfortunately, the reality we are facing is a dramatic and sustained drop in volume, a shifting customer base and a declining aerospace market,” Pratt added. “We expected volume to be down 40 percent in Cheshire next year, and are seeing deterioration faster than anticipated. The only way to keep work here is to be competitive.”