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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bill: more notice for layoff victims

The scarred landscape of numerous sites within Mercer County bears witness to the flight of several large-scale industrial complexes that once furnished a livelihood of good wages and benefits to area residents.

But many of them shut their doors while providing little notice to employees, after industrial production in Central New Jersey could no longer keep up with cheaper and more efficient competition.

State legislators are taking aim at larger industrial employers remaining in New Jersey after passing legislation that would require industrial plants to provide at least 60 days notice to employees and the state before undertaking a permanent shutdown.

General Assembly members Jeff Van Drew, Gordon M. Johnson, and Joseph Egan sponsored the legislation following closures in Southern New Jersey that left employees and their families with no income and a cloudy future.

“Unexpected closings are absolutely devastating not only to the hard-working men and women these plants employ, but to their families and our regional economies,” said Mr. Van Drew, D-Cumberland, in a statement. “We must do everything in our power to create future safeguards against mass layoffs.”

The bill, which recently passed on a Senate vote of 26 to 11, would force companies with more than 100 employees to provide 60 days notice to employees, their representatives, the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, and the municipality prior to a full closure, or major layoff.

As punishment for firms that violate the notice period, employees left unemployed through the action would be given one week's worth of severance pay for every year that they had been employed at the company, in addition to any other severance pay, state officials said this week.

“For a displaced employee who has spent years of his or her life as part of a highly skilled workforce at one of our state’s many large manufacturing plants, finding a new job that provides the same salary and benefits needed to support a family can be next to impossible,” said Mr. Johnson, D-Bergen, in a statement.

Legislators said they expect the bill to receive full endorsement by Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who has previously recommended that similar measures be taken after realizing New Jersey did not have a 60 days notice period similar to many other states.

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