Boston Herald: Outrage over new executive’s pay as workers await severance

By Jessica Van Sack
Sunday, January 23, 2011

State Sen. James Eldridge said he’s outraged that nearly two weeks after Evergreen Solar Inc. said it would shut down its publicly subsidized solar panel factory in Devens, the 800 workers being axed have yet to receive their severance packages.

Meanwhile, the day after the blue-collar layoffs were announced, the Marlboro-based company hired a new chief financial officer at $295,000 per year, guaranteeing him six months of salary and benefits in the event that he’s fired — and a $50,000 signing bonus, corporate filings show.

“I’m outraged that employees are being treated very differently from the executives, not even given the courtesy of knowing how much their severance will be when they’re literally weeks away from not having a job,” said Eldridge (D-Acton), whose district includes the Devens factory. “Sadly, it’s another sign that Evergreen Solar has been a bad corporate citizen.”

Evergreen spokesman Chris Lawson said on Friday that the company “will be doing everything we can to assist our employees and their families throughout this challenging time.”

Lawson said not only will workers get a severance, they will receive job placement assistance that will include recruiters and a fully staffed job center. However, for some employees, that was not enough.

“They sold us out,’’ said one Evergreen worker, a man in his 50s who said he once considered the plant a great workplace. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re traitors.”

The worker’s visceral reaction, however, was reserved only for the company that plans to lay him off. He’s not upset with Gov. Deval Patrick, who has caught fire for betting a whopping $58 million in state grants, tax credits and free land on the plant, which his administration lobbied Evergreen to build in Devens.

“He put 800 people to work for three years,” the worker said.

About nine months ago, employees from Evergreen’s plant in Wuhan, China, appeared to be learning how to replicate all operations at the Devens plant, the same worker told the Herald.

Patrick’s investment into Evergreen went awry Jan. 12 when the company, which has never made a profit, announced that it would close the factory and ship operations to the newer plant in China.

Evergreen made plans more than a year ago to shift its panel-making operations to the low-cost Chinese factory, but repeatedly indicated Devens would manufacture other solar components and continue to stay afloat.

Now, Evergreen has hired state police troopers to work security details at the Devens factory. The Herald reported last week that state officials who secured the incentives and free land for the Devens factory learned of the facility’s only after state police were asked by execs to provide security at the plant as news of the layoffs spread.

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