IAM members at Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut voted overwhelmingly to approve a contract that protects workers impacted by the planned closure of two Pratt & Whitney factories in Cheshire and the CARO facility in East Hartford. The agreement was unanimously recommended by the union’s negotiating committee and clearly demonstrates the value of collective bargaining when a company is seeking to eliminate jobs.
At issue in the talks were the fate of Pratt’s 500 Cheshire and CARO ( East Hartford) workers, facing company plans to close these facilities. At stake too was the bigger issue of Job Security for all Connecticut Pratt workers. The negotiations began with management at Pratt began talks insisting on elimination of all Job Security protections for Connecticut workers.
The closure of CARO and Cheshire will proceed. But the parties reached agreement on steps that are intended to prevent or minimize involuntary layoffs of any Cheshire or CARO hourly workers.
Among the most significant achievements in the negotiations is a Special Separation Program (SPP) that pays a week of severance for each year of service, a year’s paid medical and dental insurance, and a lump sum payment of $20,000. With 1,300 hourly workers age 58 or older, including more than 300 who are at least age 64, it is anticipated that SPP volunteers will create openings for displaced Cheshire & CARO workers.
Management also committed to adding 75 new jobs due to incoming F-135 military production. The company and the Machinists Union will also work jointly on job placements, training and reducing vended-out work.
“We now have a good package that will allow senior members to leave with financial dignity, and a joint process for making sure Cheshire & CARO workers get placed,” said IAM chief negotiator Jim Parent. “This fight has gone on for more than 16 months – since we got the Cheshire and CARO closing notices in July, 2009. Our members never gave up, gave in or stopped fighting. We have had a lot of support along the way, from elected officials, the labor movement, many local businesses and others. We thank all those who helped. But I especially want to thank our members. Nearly half our membership is age 55 or older. The company had originally dismissed us as too old and tired to put up a fight. But our members raised hell in every shop, and convinced the top brass at UTC and Pratt that they were looking at a strike. That’s when management began to really negotiate and address our concerns.”