From the Sept. 20, 1984, edition.
NORTH ADAMS -- Wide spread rumors were confirmed this morning as Sprague Electric Co. announced the future elimination of 50 to 75 jobs as its filter division plant on Marshall Street in an effort to consolidate the work at other locations.
Official notifications of the future layoffs came after employees met with company officials at 10 a.m. It is the second layoff action in four months at Sprague, which recently moved its corporate headquarters to Lexington.
The announcement confirmed rumors about the layoffs here and follows Mayor John Barrett III's prediction Wednesday night that the city's largest employer will lay off several hundred employees here in the near future.
In an unprecedented live news conference on Cox Cable Berkshire local channel 7, Mr. Barrett painted a bleak picture of Sprague's future in North Adams.
"While not told anything concrete, it is my feeling and the belief of many other close to the situation that the future of Sprague Electric in North Berkshire is not bright," he said.
George H. Bateman, Sprague director of human resources, called Mr. Barrett's prediction "speculation" this morning and he said he knows of no major plan to layoff employees here.
"I don't know there's a plan to move a lot of Sprague employees out," Mr. Bateman said. "That's not to say it's impossible, but I'm not aware of it."
The filter division operation, which manufactures noise filters, currently employs 35 persons. Mr. Bateman said both production and management employees would be affected by the layoff.
Asked about the continuance of the filter division here, Mr. Bateman said "there's no guarantees."
"We'll be looking at the viability of what's left," Mr. Bateman said. "It's being considered as to its performance and reviewed quarterly."
In a prepared release, the company said that certain consolidation moves will be made which will effect the filter division's assembly and test operations. According to the release, "back end" work, which includes assembling and testing work currently shared with Sprague's Annapolis Junction, Maryland plant, will be consolidates in Maryland.
Coli winding work, now performed in Maryland will, be transferred to a subcontracting unit in Tijuana, Mexico.
The gradual layoff is expected to be implemented by Nov. 30.
Union members declined to comment on the action this morning. Union leaders including President Raymond Bass, president of local 200 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Technical, Salaried and Machine Workers, left today for a three-day international union conference in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Ironically, the man in charge of the North Adams plants for Sprague, John Murphy, was also out of town. He reportedly is attending a seminar.
Mr. Bateman said the announcement was not deliberately made today to coincide with the union leaders departure. He was unaware of the conference until Tuesday, he said.
"There's nothing to gain by doing it when they're not here," he said. Mr. Bateman said he expects future layoffs here but "not of any significance." "There's going to be some but none like this," he said.
Mr. Barrett called for a "unified effort" to persuade company officials to keep operations here. He said last night "that the problem is far worse than what's going to be presented in the release."
"The ripple effect of a loss of several hundred jobs will touch the lives of all of us," Mr. Barrett told television viewers. "Every business in this area will be touched."
Mr. Bateman said no company officials have told city officials that Sprague will eliminate many positions here.
"He is absolutely correct," Mr. Bateman said this morning. But he said, "I have very, very good information about what's coming (and it) could happen in the next 18 months. It's time for the company to come clean."
He added that Gov. Michael S. Dukakis has also been told that several hundred jobs are at stake here.
Mr. Barrett said emergency meetings have been held with the governor, U.S. Rep. Silvio O. Conte and other local business leaders to construct a plan to attack the Sprague dilemma.
In response to a question, Mr. Barrett said last night that he does not believe Sprague will exist here by 1990. The electronics firm now employs about 1550, according to Mr. Bateman.
Mr. Barrett, who earlier this year accused the Sprague president, Dr. John L. Sprague, of "lying about employee employment plans in North Adams." said Wednesday "it is no good now to call names or blast anyone."
"The time has come when the powers to be must be up front and honest about their future here," Mr. Barrett said. "It is the least they can do for a city who has been so good to them for over 50 years."
"Your parents' blood and sweat helped make Sprague the worldwide company it is today." the mayor told his listeners.
Mr. Barrett added that the president local economy is unable to absorb "several hundred" former Sprague workers. He said there is the possibility of several growth companies locating here, but it would take several years for them to reach maximum potential.
Sprague announced in May the layoff of 80 persons at it's Brown Street plant would begin this month. Mr. Bateman said operations have improved at Brown Street, where an oil capacitor line was phased out. He said 17 workers laid off at Brown Street in May have been absorbed in other Sprague departments.