UE Adopts Bargaining
Demands For Negotiations
The leaders of UE locals representing General Electric workers
met at the union’s national headquarters here March 31 and adopted
bargaining proposals calling for across-the-board contract improvements from a
wealthy, successful company uniquely positioned to pay.
National negotiations between UE and GE open on May 30 in New
York. The current national agreement expires on June 25.
Pres. John Hovis (at right in left photo) with Local 506 Bus. Agent Pat Rafferty. Rafferty, who chaired the Conference Board meeting, holds a T-shirt design prepared for his local by Gary Huck of the UE NEWS Dept. At right, delegates ponder proposals for national bargaining, which begins May 30.
UE rank-and-file leaders, in their discussion of the
bargaining demands, made it clear that while their members have priorities,
bargaining will not be dominated by one issue. "There are a variety of
concerns," said Bill Callahan, Local 751. "We need to
make improvements across the board."
UE negotiators will be prepared to make strong arguments to
the company for higher wages, improved pension benefits, an end to employee
pension contributions, more paid time off and improved job and income security
Predicting further company efforts to shift health insurance
costs to workers, Steve Tormey, secretary of the UE-GE Conference
Board, urged UE members to be vigilant on this issue.
A statement adopted by the
UE-GE Conference Board at its meeting here points out that "the 1990s
were a decade of unparalleled prosperity for the company." GE currently
enjoys a clear profit of more than $1.2 million an hour, 24 hours a day, 365
days a year — and the company expects more good things to be coming its way.
NOT GOOD THINGS FOR ALL
"Despite their remarkable level of productivity, GE
workers continue to be battered by outsourcing, work transfers, shutdowns and
various forms of speed-up," the statement says. "The company’s
ongoing acquisition binge, totaling hundreds of companies for which it paid an
astounding total of over $50 billion in the last three years along, has made
the precarious situation of GE workers even worse."
Those still on the job have seen only modest advances in their
living standards as the company has enjoyed dramatic increases in profits.
Also, "the situation confronting many of those in GE who are retired, or
who hope to retire anytime soon, is nothing short of appalling," the
statement declares. "It has become increasingly clear that the pension
plan, and more specifically the mammoth $50 billion GE pension fund, is viewed
by the company not as an employee benefit, but rather as a lucrative GE
UE will seek:
Substantial wage and salary increases, and improvement
in the cost-of-living provision;
Elimination of extended progression schedules and
substandard night-shift differential applied to new hires;
Substantial increases in basic pension benefits as well
as in early retirement supplements;
Elimination of mandatory employee contributions to the
GE pension fund;
An end to GE’s "morally indefensible refusal to
bargain for retirees," increases in retirees’ pensions, an additional
raise in the minimum multiplier, and cost-of-living protection;
Restrictions on GE’s ability to subcontract or other
transfer of work;
Reduction in current levels of medical insurance
contributions, co-pays and deductibles;
To make HCP fully negotiable on the same basis as any
other benefit plan;
Additional paid time off.
UE "will strongly resist GE’s attempts to impose more
cost shifting on employees for medical insurance," and remains opposed to
lump sum payments in lieu of structural wage increases.
"No company in the entire world is in a better position
to meet the just demands of its workers than is GE in the year 2000," the
Conference Board proclaimed. "Yet we know from long experience that GE
will offer determined resistance." The union’s strength, said the local
leaders gathered here for the March 31 meeting, is the extent to which GE
workers are fully mobilized in support of the union demands.
David Kitchen, Local 506, reported on plans for a
June 3 rally in Erie, sponsored by UE and the Coordinated Bargaining Committee
(CBC), to back the unions’ bargaining demands.
Genl. Pres. John Hovis, who will chair the UE
negotiating committee, and Chris Townsend, the union’s Washington
representative, reported on developments within the CBC.
UE participants at the World Conference of GE Unions, which
took place last month under the sponsorship of the International Metalworkers’
Federation. From left, David Adams and David Kitchen, Local 506; Robin
Alexander, director of international labor affairs; Bob Brown, Local 332;
Pres. John Hovis; Joyce Sumner, Local 332 (behind Hovis); Betsy Potter and
Lynda Timblin, Local 618; Intl. Rep. Steve Tormey; and Nita Gonzalez, Local
Delegate from four UE locals and staff represented the union
at a World Conference of GE Unions in Washington in late March. The
conference, sponsored by the International Metalworkers Federation, was
"more useful" than similar events convened in the past, said Pres.
Hovis. "I was amazed, totally amazed, at the number of [GE] plants, the
wages and how people are being treated," said Joyce Sumner, Local 332.
"It was an eye-opener."
Tormey noted that as a result of the conference there will be
a working group to follow up on contacts between the CBC unions in the U.S.
and GE unions abroad.
"We should consider ourselves lucky to have a union like
UE," commented Lynda Timblin, who attended the conference.
"The Canadians are finding themselves becoming a Third World country,
while Malaysian workers have no rights, they’re like indentured
UE News - 04/00