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Pratt & Whitney Workers Rally One Last Time To Stop Layoffs

Tue, 11/30/2010 - 3:56am
Stephen Singer, AP Business Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Workers at jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut fear they may be running out of time to prevent job losses.

The Machinists union beat the subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. in federal court earlier this year, preventing it from shutting two engine repair shops and shipping 1,000 jobs to Columbus, Ga., Japan and Singapore. But the legal victory is good only as long as the union's three-year contract with Pratt & Whitney is in force.

It expires Sunday, and Pratt & Whitney said on its website it has tentatively decided to shut the plants, subject to negotiations. It will not discuss contract talks, but has cited declining business and competition.

"These conditions will not change without action," the company said.

Gradual improvements in the economy and the aviation industry require agility to remain competitive, Pratt & Whitney said.

The union has accused Pratt & Whitney of trying to "shred" job security and it plans a rally Tuesday to organize support.

Since 1993 the contract has required the company to make every reasonable effort to keep work in Connecticut in consultation with the Machinists. Recent proposals by the company would end that, the Machinists said.

"The ax could fall on any or all of us at any time," the union told its members.

Chief union negotiator Jim Parent said he told the company that if it seeks to end the job security provisions, "you have a hell of a fight on your hands."

"It's absolutely, totally unacceptable," he said. "It is hard to see, based on this proposal, how we reach agreement."

The battle over jobs is not new, with a loss of 2,000 jobs, to 3,700 now, since 2000. The last strike against Pratt & Whitney was an 11-day walkout in December 2001.

In December 2004, Machinists avoided a strike by rejecting the union leadership's recommendation against a proposed contract. Union officials faulted the agreement for, among other reasons, lacking guarantees of job security.

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