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Deadline passes with no agreement to save GE plant in Fort Edward

Updated: 11/18/2013 1:26 AM
Created: 11/18/2013 1:06 AM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch

FORT EDWARD – A 60-day bargaining period ended Sunday with no deal to save General Electric’s capacitor plant and its 200 jobs. Scott Gates, president of United Electrical Workers Local 332, made the announcement at a press conference inside the union’s office in Hudson Falls.

"Despite our best efforts and 17 bargaining sessions over the last 60 days, we are saddened to report that our union has failed to achieve an agreement with GE to keep the Fort Edward plant open beyond next September," Gates said, adding that GE rejected the union’s request to extend the bargaining period by 30 days.

On September 18, GE revealed its proposal to close the Route 4 facility and move manufacturing operations to Clearwater, Fl. The union made a pitch to save the plant by saving the company money through early retirements and public financing of new automation equipment, but GE said no.

"As it stands, the union's proposal falls short of achieving the savings and efficiencies that would be generated by the proposed move to Clearwater and that are required to address the fact that we are losing money and make us competitive long-term in the marketplace," GE spokesman Daniel Nelson said.

Union leaders, who insisted their plant is profitable, claimed GE brought no proposals of its own during the bargaining period. They said the company intends to hire cheaper labor in Florida -- $12 per hour, compared to $29 in Fort Edward – forcing many employees here to find a new line of work.

"Those kinds of jobs don't grow on trees," UE International Representative Gene Elk said. "Unfortunately, big corporations like General Electric are doing whatever they can do to get rid of those kinds of good-paying, middle class manufacturing jobs."

Union leaders thanked local elected officials for supporting the workers, but they criticized state and federal lawmakers for not doing enough. They directed their harshest criticism toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo’s office was nowhere to be found," Gates said. "Despite repeated efforts on our part to engage him, Mr. Cuomo’s office never even granted us the opportunity to meet with him or his staff to listen to our concerns and work with us on a plan to save the Fort Edward plant."

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded late Sunday, telling NewsChannel 13, "The governor’s office and relevant state agencies have been in active and continuous discussions with GE and the union. We’ve made it clear to all parties that we will continue to engage and hope that they can reach an amicable resolution for the residents of the region and the company."

Nelson, the GE spokesman, said the company has not reached a final decision to close the plant, but the union leaders said they believe it is a foregone conclusion.

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