By  on June 15, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Pa.) said Tuesday he plans to telephone John J. Pomerantz, chairman of The Leslie Fay Cos., this week to seek his appearance at a second congressional hearing into the company's decision to eliminate 1,200 Pennsylvania factory jobs and move production off shore.

Kanjorski said in an interview that he wants Pomerantz to appear to probe the "real reason" the company wants to make this move.

The company says the move is needed because it "can't afford the wage levels here. I have a hard time believing that. It has to be something else," Kanjorski said.

Kanjorski contended that Leslie Fay's "market is not that price competitive" to require more overseas production.

Pomerantz declined to appear at a June 7 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Labor Management Relations in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., stating that the company felt it was inappropriate for the panel to hold hearings in an attempt to influence private sector collective bargaining. The production shutdown is the main issue in the ILGWU strike that started June 1 against Leslie Fay,

The date of the next hearing has not been set, Kanjorski said, adding that he is discussing possibilities with subcommittee chairman Pat Williams (D., Mont.).

If Leslie Fay is moving domestic production facilities because it needs capital, Kanjorski further said, he would be willing to seek federal funding for equipment or a bridge loan to keep it operating. The state of Pennsylvania also has promised the company financial aid in an attempt to keep the jobs.

"If they don't tell us the real reason, we can't help them," Kanjorski said.

Responding to Kanjorski's call for a second hearing, a Leslie Fay spokesman said Pomerantz and other company officials would be "happy to meet with the congressman to discuss our situation" at his office in Washington or at the company's offices at 1400 Broadway in New York.

"However, we will not meet in an open forum which is clearly intended to be a political event rather than a legitimate attempt at fact-finding," the Leslie Fay spokesman said. The Leslie Fay spokesman said the reason for closing the production facilities is that they are "not profitable, with or without government assistance.""We have a fiduciary responsibility to look out for our creditors' best interests," the spokesman added, in reference to the firm's pending Chapter 11 proceedings. The firm has been in Chapter 11 since April 1993, forced into this move when credit dried up in the wake of massive fraudulent accounting.

Apprised of the company's position on the second hearing, Kanjorski said since he had not talked with Pomerantz directly he preferred not to comment.

Meanwhile, in New York, talks between the ILGWU and Leslie Fay, following a short two-hour meeting Tuesday, were put on hold by Irwin Gerard, a commissioner with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.

"We had a very thorough discussion of the issues and I've recessed the talks subject to call," Gerard said. "I will be in touch with both sides on a regular basis and when the time is appropriate the talks will be resumed."

Both sides concurred that no progress had been made.

Susan Cowell, a vice president of the ILGWU, said "since the company was not interested in discussing anything, we will continue with an all-out campaign against them." This includes a nationwide call for a consumer boycott against the company's products and the stores that carry the merchandise.

In yet another development, the firm in its Chapter 11 proceedings was granted a 3 1/2-month extension of its exclusivity period Tuesday, but not before the ILGWU spoke out in court.

The ILGWU, which filed a last-minute objection to Leslie Fay's exclusivity motion, told Bankruptcy Judge Tina L. Brozman that Leslie Fay and not the union was responsible for the women's apparel manufacturer needing additional time to reorganize.

With contributions from ARTHUR FRIEDMAN and JEFF SIEGEL, New York

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