Contend with GE’s
Hostility to Unions
GE’s best laid plans to
exploit aircraft engine workers are encountering opposition at its
Prestwick, Scotland facility as well as in southern California. The big
GE facility in Prestwick, Caledonian Air, is being organized by the
Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU), a large British
manufacturing union of 750,000 members. More than half of the roughly
1,000 Prestwick workers have joined the AEEU; the union demonstrated
outside the plant gates in November in a demand for recognition.
In typical fashion, GE
has not only rejected recognition of the union, but has threatened
employees. The plant’s human resources director, Sam Thomson,
wrote a letter to the union stating, "only non-represented shops in
the GE organization are regarded as growth areas and enjoy the benefits
of being so."
AEEU Regional Secretary Danny
Carrigan has responded by writing the U.S. Embassy, Scottish elected
officials and the government mediation body in protest. Under a new
employment law effective next summer, union recognition will be
automatic in workplaces where union membership is more than 50 percent
of the workforce.
Local 1010 is fighting back against General Electric’s plan
to transfer 125 jobs to company facilities in Scotland and Brazil. Local 1010
members, nearly all of whom are highly skilled mechanics, overhaul and
maintain GE aircraft engines.
GE announced the proposed work transfer just before Christmas,
citing lower orders, overcapacity and a need to "reduce total operating
costs" across the aircraft engine division.
Local 1010 protested the announcement with demonstrations
outside the plant on all three shifts on Jan. 13 and again on Feb. 3, when UE
members were joined by aides to U.S. Rep. Joe Baca and state
Assemblywoman Nell Soto. Both back the UE effort to stop the job
The jobs in question are profitable for GE, the union says,
and the proposed move has nothing to do with lower orders. GE recently
reported net profits of $10.7 billion for 1999; more than $2 billion is
attributable to the aircraft engine division.
GE created its own overcapacity in recent years by entering
into joint ventures or acquiring facilities outright in Malaysia, Taiwan,
Brazil and Poland, among other countries. GE bought American companies
Greenwich Air and UNC. A "state of the art" repair facility is
slated to open next year in China as a result of yet another GE joint venture.
Six negotiating sessions between the local union and GE since
the December announcement have confirmed the company’s determination to seek
out lower wages and higher profits worldwide. GE Aircraft Engine chief Robert
McNerney, considered a leading contender to succeed CEO Jack Welch, has
declared his intention to "step up our global sourcing effort."
Local 1010 has contacted state officials about the more than
$2 million GE received through California’s Employment Training Panel
program when the company hired more than 200 new mechanics in 1996-7. The
program is intended to help employers with training costs, but presumes the
workers to be retained a substantial length of time. The union intends to
press for reimbursement by GE to the state if the jobs are now moved.
In addition, the union intends to keep the pressure on GE.
Local 1010 has issued strike notices on expired grievances, an option under
the UE-GE National Contract. "We may not be able to stop the GE train
from taking our jobs, but we intend to throw everything we can on the tracks
in the process," explains Local Pres. Ted Bradley.
UE News - 02/00