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Fate of Glass Group awaits court decision on sale

PARK HILLS – Management and workers at The Glass Group’s Park Hills plant are sitting on pins and needles awaiting a bankruptcy judge’s decision in Wilmington, Del. Judge Peter Welsh could make a decision as early as this afternoon as to who will be the next owner of the Park Hills plant.

Plant manager Ken Sokol said court was back in session at 9:30 this morning.

“Both management and the local United Steel Workers of America Union have been working closely together,” Sokol said. “We are all on a team that doesn’t have a division line between us. I can’t say enough about the amazing job the employees have done in keeping this factory together throughout all of this.”

On Friday the United Steelworkers of America Local 8734 approved a five-year labor agreement with potential buyer Stolzle-Oberglas.

Union officials said the potential buyer agreed to recognize the current labor contract with a few modifications.

“These folks are going to go to court and say this is what we are willing to pay for the plant and we already have a labor agreement in place,” a union official said.

Representatives from Stolze-Oberglas wanted the outcome of the vote prior to the company making a bid for the Park Hills plant Friday in Delaware.

“What we did may not mean anything if the judge doesn’t approve the sale,” an official said. “It’s all going to play out in court and is going to depend on what the judge decides.”

Welsh did not approve a deal on Sept. 12 that would have sold The Glass Group’s Millville, N.J. factory along with the company’s equity in a Beijing glass-manufacturing joint venture to German-based Gerresheimer Group.

The transaction could not proceed unless successorship clauses in contracts were removed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The clauses prevent The Glass Group Inc. from selling its assets where union members work unless the new buyer or buyers accept the labor contracts.

On Sept. 11, lawyers representing The Glass Group asked Walsh to remove the clauses.

On Sept. 12, the unions argued against the request for more than four hours. At the end of the hearing Walsh upheld the unions’ objections, saying precedent and evidence bolster their case.

On Aug. 29 the local plant along with the other assets owned by The Glass Group Inc. went on the auction block in Philadelphia, Pa.

In March The Glass Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. At the time officials said the company was filing for bankruptcy protection in order to obtain additional financing.

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