Local 715 Members Win
Wage Increases, Preserve
Seniority in Metaldyne Contract
|Local 715 negotiating committee members Brad Kepler, Vice Pres. Kevin Hawkins, Pres. Marty
Swander, Randy Siebenaler
and Randy Nester.
On March 21, members of Local 715 ratified a new three year contract with the auto parts manufacturer Metaldyne (formerly
Simpson Industries), by a margin of 122 to 28. The 80-cent wage increase effective March 31 brings the wages of Machine Operators (the
majority of workers) to $17.14. The top rate for skilled Maintenance Workers and Tool Grinders rose to $18.59.
Wages will again increase by 30 cents on April 1, 2004 and by 30 cents on April 1, 2005. The company wanted to consolidate
the number of job classifications; the union used this as an opportunity to negotiate immediate additional wage increases for several
labor classifications. These include Machine Set-Up ($1.30 extra), Salvage ($1.38), Fork-Lift Drivers (30 cents), and Shippers (20 cents).
The new classification of "Quality Assurance" will bring Scrap Processors, Receiving Inspectors and Gage Technicians up to the
base pay rate of Inspectors, and allow those workers to earn additional increases through the existing Skilled Trades Program for
Inspection. For workers who were in the Scrap Processor classification, this means an additional raise of at least 20 cents, and may
eventually increase their pay by up to $1.70.
The new agreement increases the pension multiplier by $2, bringing the monthly pension benefit to $36 multiplied by the
worker’s number of years of service since 1992, and $26 multiplied by all years before 1992. The company’s match on each dollar a
worker saves in the 401(k) plan will be 40 cents, and will now be paid weekly instead of annually.
HEALTH INSURANCE/SENIORITY ISSUES
Health insurance emerged as a source of contention. While employee contributions for coverage will remain at 20 percent of
the cost of the main PPO plan, the company will switch to a new carrier which offers more and better coverage than the old plan, including
better preventive services and lower prescription co-pays. The new carrier will offer a choice of four different health plans: two PPOs,
an EPO, and a traditional plan. Employee contributions are substantially lower under some of the plans. Employee contributions in 2003 for
the new carrier’s main PPO plan will be lower than they were for the comparable PPO of the old carrier. In addition, employees gain a
choice of two different dental plans, and optional vision care coverage.
The company tried hard to eliminate retiree health care coverage, which it has abolished at its other plants. The local
succeeded in preserving this benefit for all present employees and current retirees, but was unable to keep it for employees hired in the
future. Local 715 leaders say one of their goals in 2006 contract bargaining will be to reverse this setback.
Life insurance benefits were increased by $1,000 each year, to $28,000 in the third year.
Another major bone of contention in negotiations was the company’s attempt to undermine strong seniority provisions in
the contract. The company wanted to eliminate multiple bumping by forcing a worker whose job is eliminated to bump only the least senior
worker in the plant. Management also wanted the right to send any worker home when his or her job was down temporarily.
The union stopped the company from eliminating worker choice in bumping. Instead, the union negotiated language that
preserves senior workers’ right to choose which job to bump when there’s a layoff or product elimination. The company’s concern to
reduce multiple bumps was addressed by grouping production jobs into 13 lines or departments, based on product or related machines. In the
future, a senior worker will bump the least senior employee in the group he or she chooses, and job bidding will be by group rather than
by individual machine or operation. Within each group, workers will choose their machines through seniority.
Local 715 also blocked the company’s wish to ignore seniority in sending workers home when machine breakdown, shortage
of materials, or reduced customer demand cause a short-term partial shutdown. Instead, new language says that temporary layoffs will be
limited to one- and two-week periods, and first offered to volunteers. If the company gets insufficient volunteers, it will temporarily
lay off the least senior workers, and let the senior workers choose the open jobs they will fill.
A major priority of Local 715 members was to make the attendance policy part of the contract, to prevent the company from
changing it. A bad arbitration ruling several years ago allowed the company to change attendance rules at will, and it seemed that each
new Human Resource manager has wanted to rewrite the absence policy. Through their persistence, Local 715 leaders negotiated the current
policy into the new contract, with the provision that if absenteeism rises to 2.67 percent or higher, changes in the policy would be
negotiated. (The absence rate has not been that high in the past six years.)
The union and company agreed to shorten the time needed to schedule Step 3 grievance meetings, and the time allowed for
the company to give its Step 3 answer. The company proposed the elimination of language on "production standards" that dated
back to the former piecework system. In its place, the local inserted language guaranteeing that "an employee working at a normal
pace with reasonable effort and attention to quality will not be disciplined for lack of productivity."
Local 715’s bargaining committee consisted of Pres. Marty Swander, Vice Pres. Kevin Hawkins, Brad Kepler,
Randy Nester, and Randy Siebenaler. They were assisted by Field Org. Al Hart.
UE News - 4/03