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Still no paychecks for laid-off AB&C Group workers

June 13, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Hundreds of laid-off AB&C Group workers will have to wait longer for pay they say is due them after the bulk-mailing company suddenly went out of business March 14.

In U.S. District Court in Martinsburg Thursday afternoon, local attorney Kathy Santa Barbara pushed federal bankruptcy judge Patrick Flatley to allow employees to be paid some of their wages from the $345,000 that she claimed was set aside for payroll, among other items.

AB&C had entered into an agreemen March 27 with Sovereign Bank to provide the money, Santa Barbara said.

Attorney Bob Trumble told Flatley the issue is not that simple.

Trumble was appointed trustee to handle the affairs of AB&C since an involuntary petition for relief under chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code was filed against the company.

Trumble said the money will be needed to hire accountants and experts to analyze AB&C's computers and other systems to get an idea of the company's debts and assets before the issue of employee pay can be worked out.

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Trumble said the computer systems in AB&C's plant off Fairfax Boulevard in Ranson, W.Va., were complex.

"I can't turn those on myself," said Trumble, adding that there are certain procedures to follow when dealing with bankruptcy cases.

Flatley also touched on bankruptcy procedures, but acknowledged how the situation was "vital to the community." Flatley did not make a ruling on whether to pay the employees out of the $345,000 and told attorneys in the case that he would give them 10 days to file closing thoughts with him.

About 400 workers were laid off in March at the Ranson plant and another in a former General Motors building off W.Va. 9 in Berkeley County. Some workers received checks due to them while others did not, officials have said.

About 680 workers were laid off through the March 14 actions and previous layoffs.

Workers have riled over the way they were treated in the closure process and said they've struggled to survive since then as they deal with staggering gas prices and few jobs in a struggling economy.

Former AB&C employees, including Susan Goin, filled the spectator section in the courtroom Thursday to witness the hearing.

Goin said what happened to AB&C employees should serve as a notice to all working people. If anyone feels their company is struggling, they should "bail out" and not stick around hoping for things to get better.

"Don't try to help them out. All you get is riff-raffed," Goin said.

Sandra Nusbaum, who worked in the Ranson plant, said she could not understand why employees are not getting their pay quicker because state labor officials told workers their pay would be a priority in the process.

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