Small Table Report
Monday, June 19th, 2000
With one week to go before the expiration of the
UE-GE National Contract, negotiations began today at the "small
table." Joining UE General President John Hovis and UE-GE
Conference Board Secretary Steven Tormey, were representatives of
the IUE, IBEW, IAM and UAW.
It soon became apparent that three weeks of
negotiations have failed to change GEs mind about much of
In reviewing the talks so far, GE made it plain that
they remained determined to shift more medical costs onto employees;
that any pension changes would be in the context of the
"three-legged stool" concept of retirement income; that
the company desired a long-term contract of five years or more; that
GE was unwilling to, in any fundamental way, limit their claimed
"right" to move or eliminate jobs; and, that the company
considers itself able to "attract and retain" employees as
things stand now when it comes to wages and benefits.
Union negotiators took strong exception to all of
these company positions. The discussion, for the most part, was a
replay of similar arguments that have taken place between the
company and the unions over the preceding weeks, months and years.
In addition, the entire union committee expressed opposition to the
idea of a contract longer than three years.
Perhaps the days only positive note came when GEs
chief negotiator, Dennis Rocheleau, indicated that the company was
not planning to include any lump-sum payments in its wage proposal.
Rocheleau did not, however, absolutely rule this out, depending on
It appears that GE is once again employing its usual
strategy of driving down expectations as much as possible. In this
way, a few crumbs that may come across the table later in the week
will look good by comparison. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise
that GE has stated that it will lay out its full proposal on medical
insurance in the morning session tomorrow. This will, in all
probability, be the worst and most regressive part of GEs
contract proposal. After that, we expect that there will be nowhere
to go but up. But how far up is anyones guess.
Tomorrow afternoon will be devoted to pensions. If
the past is any guide, we can expect a low-ball pension offer.
Remember, according to the company, the $25 billion of overfunding
in the pension trust is irrelevant to our level of pension benefits!
GE expects to complete the presentation of all the
main components of its contract "offer" by the end of
Wednesdays afternoon session. Well have a better idea of where
we stand by then.
The two "large table" subcommittees will
get underway tomorrow, with one devoted to benefits (primarily
insurance and pensions) and the other concentrating on contract
language. UE Local 506 Business Agent Pat Rafferty will serve as a
co-chair of the contract language subcommittee. Also on hand for the
final week are Bob Brown and Joyce Sumner of Local 332; Dave Adams,
Local 506; Betsy Potter, Local 618; Chris Barrickman, Local 731;
Bill Callahan, Local 751; Ted Bradley and Nita Gonzalez of Local
1010 and International Representative Chris Townsend.