Layoffs hit P&W workers

HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut continues to reel from layoffs, as 600 Pratt & Whitney (P&W) workers join the ranks of 2,800 state workers who received pink slips in the last week. Daily rallies by thousands of state workers and those affected by loss of essential services have received the support of International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 26, which represents workers at P&W, the largest industrial employer in the state. The Machinists Union is now preparing a contractual and legal fight against their members’ job loss, and is seeking support in return.

United Technologies, the parent company of P&W shamelessly announced the layoffs at the same time that a 54 percent increase in their fourth quarter earnings made headlines. UTC also announced that 2002 profits were up 15 percent. In 2002 UTC also bought back $700 million worth of their own stock, substantially boosting executive compensation.

The elimination of 217 hourly jobs put 189 workers at the Middletown P&W plant and 28 in East Hartford on the unemployment rolls. Of the 217 total, 19 “voluntarily” took retirement or layoff packages.

Many of the workers had a quarter-century of service to the company. One laid off inspector had been a Pratt employee for 36 years. On the other end of the spectrum, a number of relatively new jet engine mechanics also were let go, after being recruited by Pratt from across the country and urged to relocate here.

The Machinists Union succeeded in reducing the number of job cuts by about 100 people. However, union proposals to avert any lay-offs were dismissed by the company.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) took the lead in efforts by the state’s Congressional delegation to delay or consider alternatives to these job cuts, however, when Dodd and others met with UTC representatives the company refused the proposals.

“These layoffs could not come at a worse time for our members and the people of Connecticut. Unemployment is rising and state services are being cut. It will be hard on Pratt workers who were laid off today,” said District 26 Assistant Directing Business Representative James Parent.

“The real shame is that every one of these jobs could be maintained if management felt a stronger commitment to their employees. These workers make management rich,” Parent said.

Facing lay-offs and long-term unemployment, members of many different unions here are organizing to ride on the Connecticut Peace Train to the demonstration in New York City Feb. 15 under the banner, “Money for jobs, not war!”

The author can be reached at joelle.fishman@pobox.com

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