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Pay Protected
As Cole-Hersee
Restructures Production

BOSTON

A nine-day strike by the more than 250 members of amalgamated UE Local 262 at Cole-Hersee ended on Oct. 15 when the manufacturer of switches and other electrical equipment agreed to modify requirements for quarterly lump-sum payments.

Confusion and controversy surrounding the company’s plans to eliminate the incentive system and move to cellular manufacturing lay behind the first strike at Cole-Hersee in more than 20 years. In the most complicated negotiations in recent memory, two sets of talks — on cellular manufacturing and the basic contract package — were conducted simultaneously.

PAY PROTECTION

Membership mobilization secured an agreement that will provide 100 percent pay protection for Cole-Hersee workers as the company changes production methods.

The company’s original proposals for replacing incentive pay — in place for the last 50 years — with an hourly-rated plan called for the reduction in the wages of some of the higher earners. This, linked with a company demand that workers pay an increased share of health insurance costs and the uncertainty of job security due to the restructuring, led members to question the four-year proposal presented in the final days of negotiations.

The membership expressed their anger and unease at noisy, well-attended lunch-time rallies and by wearing union T-shirts and stickers. Workers decided to strike when the contract expired rather than extend the contract. All sectors of the ethnically diverse UE membership strongly supported the strike. "People showed up in numbers," says Shop Chairperson Bill Lynch.

UNITY MOVES MILES

Membership outrage and involvement moved the company "miles" from its starting point in negotiations, says Lynch, adding that few workers in other companies changing over to cellular manufacturing have done as well. The four-year contract gives 100 percent pay protection to incentive workers who move into the cellular manufacturing lines. This is accomplished by red-circling high earners’ individual rates; in addition, affected workers will receive lump sum quarterly payments equal to the general wage increase.

In the first year covered by the agreement, hourly workers will receive a quarterly 4 percent lump sum payment; incentive workers will receive a quarterly 4 percent lump sum payment based on the holiday rate. Cell operators earning under the top cellular rate ($12.53) will receive 10 cents an hour per quarter; those reaching the top cell rate would then get lump sums for any remaining quarters. Cell operators at or above the top rate will receive quarterly lump sums equal to the general increase.

In the second year, hourly workers will receive a 3 percent increase; incentive workers will receive a 3 percent lump sum based on the holiday rate. As in the first year, cell operators below the top rate will receive 10 cents per quarter while those at or above top rate will receive quarterly lump sums equal to the general increase.

The incentive system will be eliminated at the beginning of the third year. Union and company will enter negotiations on day work rates.

In the third year, hourly workers will receive a 3 percent general increase. Again, cell operators below the top rate will receive a 10-cent quarterly increase; those at or above top rate will receive quarterly lump sums.

In the fourth year, hourly workers will receive a 3.5 percent increase. For cell operators, 3.5 percent will be added to the starting and top rates. The new top cell rate will be $12.97; cell operators earning less than the top rate will receive 10-cent quarterly increases until they reach the top; those at or above the top rate will receive quarterly lump sums equal to the general increase.

HEALTH INSURANCE —
AND NO "SUMMER WAGE"

The company’s proposal that workers pay 50 percent of any increase in insurance premium costs was removed from the table. Although insurance was canceled during the strike, the company agreed to pay bills arising from those nine days.

The union also beat back a company proposal to establish a "summer wage" classification with an inferior wage rate.

The pension multiplier will advance to $15.75 the first year, $16.25 the second year, $16.75 the third year and $17.75 the fourth year. Sickness and accident benefits will rise to $235, $245, $255 and $270. Life insurance is increased by $1,000 every year, reaching $16,500 in the fourth year. Second-shift workers will gain a paid half-hour lunch.

The contract replaces the company’s punitive vacation eligibility rules with a fair, pro-rated system.

The UE negotiating committee consisted of Local 262 Pres. and Shop Chairperson Bill Lynch, Chief Steward James DeAngelis, Rec Sec.-Treas. Shop Pamela Raye, Trustee Bill Urban, and committeeperson James Williams. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Harry Authelet and Field Organizers Joe Geraneo and Brian Duplisea. Stewards joined the negotiations by rotation.

UE News - 11/97


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