Federal judge prevents Conn. layoffs

John O'Brien Feb. 8, 2010, 12:35pm


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has sided with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and a union of workers that are protesting Pratt & Whitney's plans to move 1,000 jobs out of state.

Blumenthal was supporting District Lodge 26 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers' lawsuit against the aircraft engine manufacturer, which plans to move the jobs to Columbus, Ga., Japan and Singapore.

The union argues that Pratt & Whitney's actions violated an employment agreement and wants a federal judge to enjoin the company from going forth with its plan. A bench trial was held in January.

U.S. District Judge Janet Hall ruled Friday that the company did not make "every reasonable effort" to preserve the jobs, as was required by the agreement.

"(T)here is no dispute that the (collective bargaining agreement) is a valid contract, that District 26 has substantially performed its part of the contract, and that both District 26 and Pratt are able to continue performing the agreement," she wrote.

Pratt & Whitney has nearly 11,000 employees in Connecticut and says it will consider an appeal.

"We believe we upheld our contractual obligations to act in good faith and made every reasonable effort to keep this work in Connecticut," company spokesperson Greg Brostowicz said.

"The fact remains that we face a declining aerospace market, a shifting customer base, and a significant and permanent volume drop at these two facilities. To keep the company competitive and retain high-technology jobs in the state, we need the flexibility to react to these changing market conditions."

Hall wrote that the struggling aircraft engine market is more likely to recover in Asia than in the United States.

Blumenthal said the well-being of his state and its citizens would be harmed if Pratt & Whitney is allowed to lay off the employees.

"Pratt should not be permitted to eliminate jobs, causing harm to Connecticut's economy and profound financial distress to hundreds of families, in violation of its binding contractual promises to its workers," he said.

He has fought against other companies that planned to lay off state employees, including AT&T, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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