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Federal Notice Requirement Could Boost State’s Voluntary Program

July 10, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ A 2-year-old state effort to give workers advance notice of plant closings could get a boost if President Reagan signs a trade bill making such notification a federal law.

Massachusetts was the first state to adopt a plant-closing law, with provisions largely voluntary. It has helped 18,000 workers put in limbo by layoffs, but backers say it has not gone far enough.

″Too few companies are covered, that’s a complaint I’ve heard,″ said George Carpenter, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO and an author of the Massachusetts legislation. ″I do think it’s working now. We tried for years to get it mandatory but in lieu of that, (our aim was) to build in protection for the workers.″

Perennial efforts to make the notice mandatory remain stalled in the state Legislature. But the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to retain in a major trade bill provisions that would require companies with 100 workers or more to give employees at least 60 days’ notice of impending plant closings or large layoffs.

Opponents said the provision was likely to draw a veto from President Reagan.

The Massachusetts law requires any firm with 50 employees or more and which borrows money from the state to agree to give workers 90 days’ notice or pay in lieu of notice if it closes. Companies also pledge to assist state efforts to retrain and place the displaced workers in new jobs.

Machinist Robert Ferrant, 40, of Holyoke was one of the 1,300 workers at a United Technologies diesel engine plant in Springfield that closed without giving workers such notice.

″As recently as November 1985, about two months before the closings, they promised they had no intention to close. So it was a shock,″ Ferrant said in a telephone interview.

He said his union responded by rallying public pressure.

″We had a number of demonstrations to embarrass them into either keeping it open or providing worker assistance,″ he said. ″United Technolgies committed $1 million, and the state also committed money for the worker assistance program.″

The best way to deal with plant closings is to prevent them, said Patricia Hanratty, executive director of the state Industrial Services Program. She said he program has helped 190 firms, and about 155 are still in business.

To date 18,000 unemployed people have sought state services through Hanratty’s office, including counseling, job training and instruction in writing a resume.

About 76 percent have found new jobs averaging $8.36 an hour or 92 percent of their former wage.

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