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UE-GE National Contract Negotiations

GE Conference Board Meets;
Discusses Bargaining Goals


Adams Hovis
Local 506 President Dave Adams (left) chairs the UE-GE Conference Board meeting; UE General President John Hovis looks on.

On December 9, 1999 the GE Conference Board met at the national office in Pittsburgh. It hardly seems possible, but the current 1997-2000 Contract has almost run its course. Negotiations for a new National Contract will begin in New York City on Tuesday, May 30, 2000. That means we have a lot of work to do in the next five months to be ready for what promises to be (as usual) difficult negotiations with GE.

Focus On Contract Proposals

With this in mind, Conference Board delegates devoted most of the meeting to a lengthy discussion of Contract proposals covering virtually every area of the contract. Not surprisingly, delegates brought from their locals many proposals for improvements in pensions, medical insurance, job and income security, and paid time off, as well as wages and COLA and a wide variety of contract language improvements.

The delegates were particularly emphatic in expressing dissatisfaction with the various problems associated with the insurance plan. Local 506 President Dave Adams who chaired the meeting, explained that examples of this range from company schemes to hound sick or injured workers back to work prematurely, to a variety of hurdles erected to deny proper care in mental illness and substance abuse cases.

'Fed Up with Cost Shifting'

Conference Board Meeting ...

Delegates also said in no uncertain terms that they were fed up with GE’s insurance cost shifting, and proposed lower contributions, deductibles, and co-pays. This topic is certain to be a major bone of contention with GE which is already laying the groundwork for another round of cost shifting, something the Conference Board delegates reported that UE members are in no mood to accept.

It came as no surprise that delegates proposed enhanced early retirement opportunities, and in addition a substantial increase in basic pension benefits and supplements that will enable those who wish to retire early to do so.

SERO;  Retirees

Local 332 Business Agent Bob Brown noted that the replacement pool for SERO "window" retirements needs to be broadened to include those who have lost recall rights as well as new hires. Otherwise, in those plants such as Ft. Edward with no active recall list at present, no one will be able to take advantage of a new SERO window opportunity.

Delegates were also unanimous in their determination to secure an increase for retirees, and considering the bloated GE pension fund, also felt that it is high time for a cost of living provision to be built into the pension plan.

Article 23

A wide variety of proposals were submitted to strengthen job and income security language in Article 23, many of which dealt with restricting GE’s ability to subcontract or farm out work. To cite just one example, Local 1010 delegate Nita Gonzales from the Ontario, CA jet engine repair facility pointed out that the Local had just received a transfer of work notice affecting about 125 jobs. The company claims that only 60 days, rather than six months notice is required because the work affected is not considered "ongoing production work". This is despite the fact that the engine mechanics do the same kind of ongoing work on product that would occur in a manufacturing facility.

Local 506 Chief Plant Steward Dave Kitchen cited numerous problems with GE farming out work without negotiations on the theory that it is due to a lack of plant "capacity". Later when reductions occur or work slackens, the company again disavows any obligation to bargain on the theory that the work is already gone and no one was "directly affected".

Wages, COLA; Sick and Personal Days

Delegates also proposed increases in vacations, holidays, and Sick and Personal (S&P) days. The hourly workers’ S&P day schedule has remained unchanged since the early 1970’s.

While no set figure was decided upon, the delegates put forward the demand for substantial general wage increases as well as an improved COLA formula which will better protect the wage increases from being consumed by inflation. Bill Callahan of Local 751 reminded delegates of the unfairness of the extended progression schedule and substandard night shift bonus which newly hired workers are saddled with, and stated that these provisions be done away with.

Discussion and Input Encouraged

All Locals are encouraged to continue to discuss proposals with their memberships. Conference Board approval of the demands in final form will not occur until the next meeting some time in March. After that, the contract proposals will be submitted to each UE-GE local for ratification by the membership.

Those in attendance at the meeting were Joyce Sumner and Bob Brown from Local 332 Ft. Edward, NY; Dale Stubenhoffer, Dave Crawford, Dave Adams, Denny McLaughlin, Dave Seyler, Leo Wiertel, Dave Kitchen, John Bojarski, and Dave Cook from Local 506 Erie, PA; Betsy Potter, Lynda Leech and Pat Tofel from Local 618 Erie, PA; Ken Lowther of Local 707 Cleveland, OH; Pat Wojtowicz and Alan Mitchell from Local 731 Conneaut, OH; Bill Callahan and Ed Baran from Local 751 Niles, OH; and Nita Gonzales from Local 1010 Ontario, CA

See also: UE News Conference Board Story

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