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MetLife Gives Ground On Jobs

Company Agrees To Hold On To 210 More Workers

April 16, 2005
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer

Pressured by state officials, MetLife Inc. agreed Friday to keep about 210 more jobs in Hartford than planned, clearing major opposition to its $11.5 billion acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity.

The joint announcement by MetLife and Gov. M. Jodi Rell softens the blow for Hartford to a loss of 490 jobs - instead of the most recent threat of 700 jobs and previous specter of up to 1,200.

"In a perfect world, this acquisition would be accomplished without any cutbacks," said Rell, whose staff negotiated the agreement with MetLife. "In the real world, job losses are sometimes unavoidable."

The 490-job loss includes 390 positions to be eliminated and 100 jobs to be moved out of state.

MetLife made the concession two days after Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that he would seek to intervene in a public hearing on the proposed acquisition and ask regulators to deny it because of the economic impact. Even if he did not prevail, his action could have led to long and contentious proceedings for MetLife, which hopes to close the deal by July 1.

At Rell's request, Blumenthal agreed Friday not to intervene formally in the hearing, but said that he would speak there and continue to "ask tough questions" about the deal. No hearing date has been set.

New York-based MetLife now guarantees that it will keep 1,310 Travelers jobs in Hartford for at least one year after the deal's closing. But it was not known how many employees who would have lost their jobs now will be able to keep them.

The employment level of 1,310 reflects several moving parts and unknowns:

Job offers already made to 1,100 Travelers employees, although not all are expected to accept them. MetLife said that if a job offer is rejected, the company will fill either that one or another to maintain the 1,100 level.

An unknown number of employees who will now be offered ongoing jobs, who would otherwise have been laid off within a few months of the closing.

Jobs that MetLife will bring into Hartford from other states - believed to be at least 200 positions, although the company would not say.

Attrition - people voluntarily leaving Travelers.

Travelers is part of Citigroup and has about 1,800 employees in Hartford, having shrunk by 59 since the acquisition was announced Jan. 31.

MetLife's one-year promise of keeping 1,310 Travelers jobs in the city - shorter than some acquirers' job commitments of two years or more - raises the question of whether more layoffs will occur when a year is up.

But Rell spokesman Rich Harris said Friday: "It is our understanding that these are permanent and ongoing jobs and that the number is not likely to change other than through normal attrition."

MetLife spokesman John Calagna noted only that the one-year promise is a minimum and said: "That's what both parties agreed to."

MetLife also said that there will be no change, other than through attrition, to its current operations in Connecticut. The company has about 1,200 positions spread among Glastonbury, Rocky Hill, Shelton and Westport.

On Monday, when MetLife announced that it would make 600 Travelers job cuts and move 100 jobs out of Hartford, the governor's office said that the company had negotiated as much as it could. No more talks were scheduled with company officials at the time.

On Wednesday, when Blumenthal said that he would oppose the acquisition, MetLife resumed talks that day with the governor's office.

Asked whether MetLife returned to the table because of Blumenthal's threat, Calagna said, "It had all to do with MetLife trying to put together the best agreement and to save the most jobs possible and to move forward for approval of the transaction."

Blumenthal said that his opposition to the deal "undoubtedly had an impact in helping to break an impasse," but added, "I would not be so presumptuous as to claim sole credit."

MetLife did not seek state or local financial incentives in return for the jobs agreement, Calagna said.

Friday's agreement did not include a specific dollar commitment by MetLife for charitable contributions in Connecticut, although the company has vowed to be a good corporate citizen.

Blumenthal said that he would push for MetLife to "maintain and enhance" the giving so that the annual contribution would be at least as much, if not more, than the total now donated by MetLife and Travelers combined.

Mayor Eddie A. Perez said he welcomed the MetLife jobs agreement Friday but added, "The devil's always in the details."

He wants to know more about how long the jobs will stay in Hartford and what kinds of positions will be here. Public officials have voiced concern that the job mix won't be as high-paying as Travelers' present makeup.

Perez said that he also plans to continue working with MetLife so that it will "grow business lines in the city."

"I'm encouraged we're moving in the right direction," Perez said. "We can't claim victory yet."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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