Pratt Workers Say They'll Fight To Keep Jobs

As Pratt & Whitney announces it will close its Cheshire Engine Center and East Hartford-based Connecticut Airfoil Repair Operations, workers said they'll fight to keep their jobs.

Company officials had been discussing the possibility of moving jobs at the Cheshire plant and a portion of the East Hartford plant, transferring work to Columbus, Ga., Singapore and Japan. The union has been in negotiations over the past several months in an attempt to keep the jobs in Connecticut.

Between the two locations, more than 1,000 jobs are affected. About 800 of the lost jobs will come from the Cheshire facility, and another 200 from the East Hartford location.

The state had offered Pratt, a division of Hartford-based United Technologies, a package that would give the company $20 million over five years to keep the jobs in the state.

"Pratt has short-term profit blinders on that are causing them to rush toward a decision at the expense of the long-term health of the company. This is a bad decision, made indefensible given the fact that the governor, the Congressional delegation, and the union pulled out every stop to keep these jobs in the hands of a workforce that is second to none in skill and dedication. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that the people whose livelihoods are affected by this decision have what they need to find new employment and job training for their transition in this tough economy," said Rep.Chris Murphy following Pratt's Monday announcement.

The machinists' union also offered a reported $63 million cost-savings package.

The company cited three main reasons for closing the two facilities: A drop in volume, a decline in the aerospace market and a shift in its customer base.

“This was an extremely difficult decision,” Vice President Tom Mayes said in a written statement. “We share the union and state's commitment to keeping good jobs in Connecticut. The best way to protect the jobs that remain is to ensure we are competitive in a rapidly changing industry and challenging global economy.”

Pratt workers told Eyewitness News that they plan to fight to keep their jobs.

"We're going to continue to fight on, we've fought before," said Tony Whelan.

Whelan said he's worked for Pratt & Whitney for more than 20 years.

"It's emotional, it's a big deal. A lot of people are about to lose their jobs and lose their houses, and it's gonna hit hard," he said.

The plant in Cheshire performed engine-repair work. The company said it plans to shut the East Hartford facility in January 2010, and the Cheshire plant by early 2011.