Talks are continuing over Pratt & Whitney’s intention to close two Connecticut plants with the loss of a thousand jobs. But union leaders said Tuesday they’re frustrated with a lack of information coming from the company during negotiations.
The East Hartford based jet engine maker announced last month that its plant in Cheshire and the aerofoil repair center in East Hartford were both being considered for closure, with the work to be moved either south or overseas. But the company has agreed to what are called “meet and confer” talks with union leaders to attempt to identify ways to save the facilities. Lead union negotiator Jim Parent updated workers at a press conference after Tuesday’s session.
"What we’re waiting for is a full breakdown of their business case as to how much it costs them to do business in the state of Connecticut, how much it’ll cost them to do business in Singapore, how much it’ll cost them to do work in Japan and Columbus Georgia. They want us to come up with some ideas on how we preserve the work in the state of Connecticut. We can’t do that until we truly understand their costs."
He was joined by state legislators and several members of the congressional delegation – congressman Chris Murphy says he believes closures in the state would be a false economy for the company.
"I know that that facility today is on pace in Cheshire Connecticut to be 40% more profitable than it was this time last year. I know that in cases before where Pratt & Whitney has moved work from Cheshire down to Georgia, they have lost millions of dollars in contracts because of substandard work."
The delegation also expressed anger that their work to save the F22 program during the recent defense budget round had been undermined by Pratt & Whitney’s actions. Congressman Joe Courtney:
"As a delegation we were fighting, not just in the House and the Senate, we were fighting the White House, to make sure that we were going to preserve jobs here in the state of Connecticut. Two days before the vote took place in the Senate, on keeping the production line open on the F22, we open up the newspaper and we read that this company is shutting down two factories – before we even had the vote."
Rosa De Lauro put it more directly:
"We’re not going to watch as companies subvert that action and while we make that fight to turn around and to close these two plants. That is outrageous, it isn’t fair, it is wrong, and we are going to turn it around with your help in doing that."
There was plenty of fighting talk Tuesday, but workers at both plants say morale is low. Geronimo Valdez described the feeling among his colleagues at the East Hartford center.
"They do their best every day – they come in every day, they give it their best efforts, they do what the company requires them to do. They really taken the place and decimated it, for lack of a word."
And he says he’s not optimistic about the fight to save the facility.
"I just have a bad feeling, seems like they just don’t want to keep the work in Connecticut."
After the talks, Pratt & Whitney issued a statement saying they remain hopeful that the negotiations will identify a viable alternative to moving work out of Connecticut. But time is short – the meet and confer process lasts for just 45 days. More talks are scheduled for later this week.