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Official says morale is high at glass factory

PARK HILLS – Worker morale is high at The Glass Group’s (GGI) Park Hills factory as finalization of a deal to sell the plant nears. A tentative agreement between GGI and Austrian glassmaker Stolzle-Oberglas was reached on Monday.

Stolzle-Oberglas is expected to present an asset purchase agreement at a sale hearing on Friday in front of Bankruptcy Judge Peter Welsh.

“The workers seem pretty satisfied with the deal,” said a union official. “Morale is a lot higher than it was three weeks ago. This was the only hope that we had to keep our jobs.”

The official said that if a deal is finalized on Friday, the union did not know how long it would take for the new buyer to take over operations.

“We were kind of wondering when our new contract would kick in,” the official said. “Our current contract is set to expire on Monday. It’s not a big problem, though. We will just continue under the existing contract until the new one kicks in.”

On Sept. 16 the United Steelworkers of America Local 8734 approved a five-year labor agreement with potential buyer Stolzle-Oberglas.

GGI Human Resource Manager Scott Winder said even if a deal is finalized on Friday, Stolzle-Oberglas will not take over operations until the deal is closed which could take a couple of weeks.

“We have been consulting with Stolzle-Oberglas on future issues that may pop-up,” Winder said. “While the deal is being closed, Stolzle will be initiating a discovery phase to see what needs to happen to continue operations.”

Winder said all operations out of the Park Hills plant are currently centralized through GGI’s headquarters in New Jersey.

“With GGI out of the picture we are most likely going to have to become a standalone operation,” Winder said.

Winder said payroll, employee health benefits, inventory, scheduling, 401Ks, pensions and other internal controls are currently done through GGI in New Jersey.

“Obviously, this will have to change,” Winder said.

Winder said he cannot say enough about the employees at the Park Hills factory.

“The job these people are doing is absolutely phenomenal,” Winder said. “We are doing the work with fewer people than we have had in the past. People are working harder and more efficiently.”

Winder said the rebuilding process of one of the factory’s furnaces began today.

“A temporary layoff of 120 people will take place while the furnace is being rebuilt,” Winder said. “The work is scheduled to be done Sept. 29-Oct. 19.”

Despite the layoff, a union official said rebuilding the furnace is a good thing.

“This way when the new company takes over, they will have two good furnaces to work with,” the official said.

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