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Veteran workers reflect on PPG glass deal
[July 14, 2008]

Veteran workers reflect on PPG glass deal

(The Valley News-Dispatch Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jul. 14--Standing in front of the massive, white PPG building along Ferry Street between the railroad tracks and the Allegheny River, Herbie Kerr said he's hoping for the best.

The production worker, who lives in Leechburg, has worked at the Creighton plant for 30 years. Right now, he said, there's "just a lot of anxiety of the unknowns."

Reactions were mixed as employees at PPG's Creighton automotive glass plant heard the news last week that PPG Industries Inc. has a deal to sell the plant and service unit.

The deal will affect about 230 workers at the Creighton plant in East Deer.

PPG will sell 60 percent of its ownership in its automotive glass business for $330 million in cash to a group of funds managed by private equity firm Kohlberg & Co. of Mt. Kisco, N.Y. PPG will retain 40 percent of ownership in the new company that will operate the business. The deal is expected to be closed in the third quarter.

Kerr said he's close to retirement.

"Of course, I have concerns because I'm ready to retire," he said, adding that, if all goes well, he would work for another 10 years.

Although he said the auto industry is on the downturn, he remains hopeful.

"They're putting millions of dollars of equipment in," Kerr said. "So it's not like they're going to shut the doors tomorrow."

The Creighton automotive glass plant makes windshields for vehicles. Auto glass plants in Tipton, Blair County, and Meadville, Crawford County, are also included in the deal.

Thomas Barbus of Cabot has worked in maintenance at the plant for 30 years.

He and wife Barbara, who also works in the plant, plan to retire at the end of the month.

"We're getting out while the getting's good," Barbus said.

Hearing about the sale "sort of put it over the edge," he said, about his retirement plans.

"It's just, conditions are deteriorating, put it that way," Barbus said. "Even the workers and the general way the plant's running."

Barbus has concerns for employees' contracts.

"I'm also worried that our contract will be up in March. We have a 30 (years) and out clause now and whether that will continue ..," he said. "The next contract is up in the air, and we're not going to wait to see."

The local union, United Steelworkers of America District 10, Local 12-G, represents about 180 workers at the Creighton plant. The union has a successor clause in its contract with PPG but it does not know whether it will have to negotiate another contract with new ownership, Union Vice President Kent Crytzer said earlier this week. Numerous phone messages seeking comment left at the United Steelworkers of America District 10, Local 12-G, late last week were not returned.

The sale has not moved Raymond Bowser, of Sarver, toward retirement. Bowser will have worked at the plant for 56 years come September.

He said he had heard rumors about the sale, but he doesn't pay attention to rumors.

"All I can tell you (is) I'll believe it when I see it in writing," Bowser said Wednesday.

PPG originally agreed to sell its automotive glass business for $500 million to Platinum Equity LLC, a private equity firm in Beverly Hills, Calif. in September.

Platinum Equity terminated the sale in late December and sued PPG in New York State Supreme Court, claiming it did not owe a $25 million breakup fee because PPG allegedly overstated the financial health of the business. The case remains in New York court.

Rossilynne Skena can be reached at [email protected] or 724-226-4681.

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