About 125 employees of Ferranti Healthcare Systems Corp. of Hunt Valley received a grim message by telephone or telegram on New Year's Day: Your job has been terminated, effective immediately.
The sudden elimination of most of the payroll came after the company filed bankruptcy at the U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore on New Year's Eve, saying it owes $20.7 million and has assets of only $10.7 million.
Both the bankruptcy attorney and the executive in charge of the company confirmed the unusual approach to laying people off and said it was necessitated by the sudden decision to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors.
The company leases the third floor and half of the second floor of an office building at Four North Park in Hunt Valley. The affected workers -- all but 16 or 17 of the total employed by the company -- found themselves unable to enter the offices yesterday, even to retrieve personal belongings.
"It was abrupt," said Mark J. Friedman, an attorney with Piper & Marbury who is acting as counsel for Ferranti Healthcare, a provider of hospital and nursing home software and computer services. "We're trying to handle this on an orderly basis," he said. "Employees have been contacted about getting access to possessions."
"Unfortunately because of the timing of when we were able to get this thing filed, the employees ended up having to be notified in that [telephone and telegram] manner," said James P. Shine
house, president and chief executive of Ferranti International Inc., the Lancaster, Pa.-based parent of the Hunt Valley company. The Lancaster company is turn a subsidiary of Ferranti International PLC of London.
Mr. Friedman and Mr. Shinehouse could not provide an exact figure of the number of layoffs.
Ferranti International's overall U.S. operations have shrunk. Employment in Lancaster is now at "more than 600, down from a peak of more than 1,700," Mr. Shinehouse said.
He noted that the layoffs, while sudden, came after "a number of cutbacks over time, as business has declined." The company is trying to figure out a reorganization plan that would allow it to emerge from bankruptcy and continue to operate, he said.