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Local 766 Negotiates
Despite Closing Threat

WAPAKONETA, Ohio

uen_0498_766.gif (16987 bytes)
The Local 766 Negotiating Committee consisted of Ken Bowersock, Ken Claybaugh, and John Rupert (front row) and Virgil Kennedy and Jeff Van Meter (back row)

Local 766 members narrowly accepted a contract offer from Ametek/Westchester Plastics under the threat of a plant closing last month. Union members beat back the wage freeze and other concessions demanded by the employer, a manufacturer of plastics and building materials.

Ametek issued the plant-closing threat on the first day of negotiations, warning the union that upper management "had drawn a line in the sand and had decided not to reinvest in the plant." The company insisted on the "flexibility" to be "competitive."

Complaining that Local 766 members were the highest paid in the division and the area, the boss called for a wage freeze, as well as 12-hour shifts, elimination of overtime after eight hours and elimination of double time on Sundays. Ametek also objected that Local 766 had negotiated the best insurance in the company.

These threats set the worst tone for negotiations since the 1986 strike. "They had a plan to close the place up, they didn’t have a plan to keep it open," said Local Pres. John Rupert. "Still, we went in and tried to get things."

NO THREATS

Local 766 insisted on negotiating a new agreement without threats — and pointed out that Ametek closed a Pennsylvania plant after pressuring the union there into contract concessions. The UE committee reminded Ametek that in the past three negotiations, the union had demonstrated to the company its need to invest in new equipment in order to stay competitive. Workers shouldn’t pay for management mistakes, the union said.

The final offer came with a letter stating that plant closing procedures would be initiated in the event of membership rejection. The Local 766 committee shared with the membership all the available information and documentation; workers voted for ratification by a close margin.

The contract contains wage increases of 1.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 2 percent and a 10 percent upgrade for Grade III jobs.

The pension will go from $22 per years of service to $28.

The sickness and accident benefit will rise to $285 a week over the contract term. Life insurance will increase to $27,000 by the end of the agreement. New language improves the family leave policy.

While there is no monthly contribution for employee insurance coverage, changes in insurance will include a $5 monthly contribution for employee and child coverage, $10 a month for employee and spouse and $15 for family coverage. These additional costs fall far short of the $70 a month the employer had proposed for certain conditions. Deductibles and co-pays also increase.

Workers will now have the option to carry over two weeks vacation per year; employees will now receive written notice of vacation time accrued even if on layoff. New contract language streamlines the job-bidding process and requires the employer to fully train people before they are operating a job alone.

An additional day of bereavement leave gives workers four days off with pay in the event of a death in the immediate family.

The employer will pay half the cost of a pair of safety work boots or shoes up to $40.

As a result of the employer’s failure to recognize the super seniority of a worker elected steward while on layoff, the company will now recognize super seniority regardless of job status.

Local 766 beat back Ametek’s attempt to impose the 12-hour day, but the final offer included continuous operations with eight-hour shifts for new hires and 50 percent of the shop, under certain conditions.

REINSTATMENT

Local 766 also won reinstatement of Joe Fisher. The company had refused to put Fisher back to work, citing a statement by the company’s doctor — who had failed to perform any tests before concluding Fisher could not perform the full range of duties required. "The doctor was bought and paid for by the company," Local Pres. Rupert said. Results of tests taken by a physical therapist clearly demonstrated Fisher was able to do the work, but the company still refused reinstatement. In the final hours of negotiations Ametek gave in; Fisher has been called back to work.

After ratification, the members had a clear message for the employer: Don’t come to us in the next negotiations threatening a plant closing. "They said they wouldn’t invest in Ametek/Westchester Plastics without this agreement. We made the first step, now the company has to make the next step to keep it open," Pres. Rupert said.

"We told them the day we signed the contract, if we’re still here in three years, don’t come back and pull the same stuff, because we’ll walk," Rupert said.

The Local 766 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. John Rupert, Vice Pres. Jeff VanMeter, Sec. Virgil Kennedy, Treas. Ken Bowersock and Chief Steward Ken Claybaugh. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter and Field Org. Andrew Dinkelaker.

UE News - 03/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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