HAVERHILL — The 413 Southwick factory workers who lost their jobs scored a victory Wednesday when the company agreed to pay them outstanding vacation and sick time, Mayor James Fiorentini said.
The workers, who initially received no severance packages when they lost their jobs, will also have their health care benefits extended through Aug. 31, Fiorentini said.
The mayor said Attorney General Maura Healey's office notified him Wednesday afternoon that Southwick's parent company, Brooks Brothers, agreed to pay the vacation and sick time amid the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
"I congratulate the union and the Southwick workers," Fiorentini said.
Ethan Snow, chief of staff for New England Joint Board of the UNITE HERE union, which represents the workers, said Brooks Brothers agreeing to pay the money is something that is required by Massachusetts law.
"While our members are happy to be receiving some much-needed income during these difficult times, we're setting a low bar for companies if we're congratulating them for simply doing what is required by law in paying out owed vacation money," Snow said. "Our union remains laser focused on winning severance benefits that honor our members' many years of service and saving the factory."
Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection on July 8, one day after telling workers at the Southwick factory in Haverhill that the operation would close at the end of July. Southwick is one of three Brooks Brothers factories that produces high-end men's clothing in the United States. Workers at the New York and North Carolina plants, who are working through mid-August, received severance pay, while those in Haverhill did not, according to a company spokeswoman.
The Attorney General's office and Fiorentini are pursuing legal action to collect tax credit money, or tax breaks, from Southwick. Those breaks were given to the company when it moved to Haverhill from Lawrence several years ago.
In exchange for promising to create 70 new jobs between 2016 and 2018, Southwick was given $2.1 million in tax breaks by the state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council. The company was also expected to retain 468 jobs as part of the agreement.
Fiorentini said Wednesday that the city intends to file its own claim in bankruptcy court in Delaware to "claw back" the local tax credits given to Southwick.
The mayor said he and other elected officials are also trying to find a buyer to take over the Brooks Brothers company and provide jobs for the workers who have been laid off.