Conn. officials feel pressure over job losses at United Technologies

By Stephen Singer, AP
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Conn. officials feel pressure over job losses

HARTFORD, Conn. — Job cuts at United Technologies Corp. are adding to the political debate over taxes and other costs of doing business in Connecticut.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell told reporters that she and Louis Chenevert, chief executive at the parent company of jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, Otis elevator, Sikorsky Aircraft and other businesses, talked recently about the cost of doing business in Connecticut.

The Republican governor, who is at odds with the Democratic-controlled legislature over tax and spending, said policies make it “too costly to live and to work in the state of Connecticut.”

Rell said she asked Chenevert to meet with her and legislative leaders, but that it may not be fruitful because Democrats have not been responsive to the concerns of business executives.

“He said he would be glad to do that, but I also have to tell you that — I don’t want to say he was skeptical — but he has met with leaders before,” she said. “He does not feel that he’s always being responded to in an appropriate manner and, frankly, I can’t blame him.”

A spokesman for United Technologies would not comment on Chenevert’s conversation with Rell.

Sen. Martin Looney, the Democrats’ majority leader, disputed Rell’s comments, saying Connecticut is business-friendly.

“I don’t think the legislature has enacted any tax policy that has been hostile to businesses compared with other states,” he said.

United Technologies also faces pressure to shift some jobs to nations where it does business and the legislature can do nothing about it, Looney said.

Pratt & Whitney has been battling the Machinists union in federal court as the company seeks to shut two engine repair plants and move 1,000 jobs to Georgia, Japan and Singapore. It also announced it would lay off 163 employees, but said Tuesday that more than 155 employees in Connecticut accepted offers of severance and other benefits and will instead leave voluntarily, avoiding layoffs.

A comment by Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes at United Technologies’ annual analysts day in New York on Friday that “any place outside of Connecticut is low cost” added to concerns in Connecticut that communities may see more jobs disappear.

United Technologies has been cutting employment and shifting jobs to keep profit from falling too steeply in the worst recession in decades.

The Hartford-based company posted profit last year of $3.8 billion, down 18 percent from 2008, winning praise from analysts who say the conglomerate has succeeded in keeping labor and other costs down.

Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh also contributed to this report.

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