Early Talks Net
Big Gains for Local 243
NEW HAVEN, Conn.
The UE committee at
Sargent. Seated, from left, Mark Meinster, Fran Amendola, Ray Pompano, Cynthia Salters and Steve Saunders;
standing, Sal Luzzi, Wayne Morrison, Tony Izzo, Bobby Cox and Archie Foster.
Sargent Manufacturing workers, members of UE Local 243, have
ratified a new contract with the giant, world-wide lock manufacturing company
ASSA ABLOY — achieving all of their major goals, and six months before the
The previous contract would not expire until March 2001.
Local 243 has been mobilizing its members for a big fight for
the past year or so. Both sides knew that negotiations were going to be tough.
ASSA ABLOY had recently doubled its size by acquiring the Yale Lock Co. At the
same time, UE Local 243 members made their goals crystal clear to the company:
they wanted increases in the pension benefit and in Sick and Accident pay.
They wanted to strengthen the contract’s language on temporary employees.
And there would be a big fight if the Company tried to increase employee
payments for health insurance.
When Sargent management approached the local about entering
into early negotiations, the UE leadership was initially skeptical of the
company’s intentions. At that point the local made a decision. They decided
that if the company met the union’s major bargaining goals they would hammer
out a contract. If not, negotiations would have to wait until February.
The company had other ideas. Once the local got into
negotiations, the company announced that they viewed the early talks as
negotiations for a "contract extension" and only wanted to discuss a
few economic items.
The UE committee, however, stood strong. Over and over, the
committee made it clear to the company that without agreement on the local’s
core issues, negotiations would have to wait until next year. The membership
was united on this point.
LOCAL’S STRATEGY PAYS OFF
Local 243’s strategy paid off. After two weeks of
negotiations, the UE Local 243 negotiating committee brought a tentative
agreement to the membership which met all of the local’s major bargaining
goals, and then some. The agreement was ratified convincingly.
The new contract includes much sought-after gains in many key
areas. UE members received a 50-cent wage increase in November, five full
months before they would have normally received a raise. In the second
contract year, wages will rise by 3.5 percent; in the third year wages will
rise by 3.4 percent. In a big victory, workers on progressive assembly lines
received a labor grade increase, upping their pay an additional 17 cents an
hour. This upgrade will affect one-fifth of the shop.
UE Local 243 members will pay no more for their health
insurance. This was a hard-fought victory, given that Blue Cross/ Blue Shield
had raised their premiums substantially.
UE members won pension multiplier increases of $2.00 the first
year, $.50 the second year, and $.50 the third year. The pension multiplier
will be raised to $29.25 by the end of the contract. In addition to the
defined benefit plan, the company agreed to institute a new 401(k) plan for
Sick and accident pay will rise substantially, to a minimum of
$300 a week and a maximum of $400 a week.
Sargent workers also won an extra half a week’s vacation at
20 years, an increase which will apply to a good portion of the shop.
In addition to economic gains, the local won some extremely
important contract language victories. In particular, the new contract
addresses the growing problem at Sargent of temporary employees.
Although the local has negotiated good contract language
regarding temps during the previous negotiations, the company has abused it,
leading to numerous grievances. The new language guarantees that the few temps
the company is allowed to hire under the contract will become permanent within
180 days. In addition, any temporary employees on the Sargent payroll as of
the ratification of the contract were made permanent Sargent employees.
The new contract also contains innovative language gains such
as medical coverage for permanently disabled employees, a company commitment
to provide technical training for younger Sargent workers and vacation pay
protection for employees out on workers’ compensation.
When Sargent converted from a piecework shop to a day-rate
shop a few contracts ago, workers received an "incentive
differential," or ID. This means that they receive up to several dollars
an hour extra for the work they perform. Local 243 won a major victory this
contract when the company agreed to let workers carry their "ID"
with them when they bid on other jobs in their department. In addition,
workers will carry their ID with them in the case of layoff due to new machine
technology, process improvement or outsourcing.
With the contract finished early, Local 243 is now turning its
attention to organizing other factories in the New Haven area.
Members of the UE Local 243 negotiating committee included
Pres. Ray Pompano, Tony Izzo, Sal Luzzi, Wayne
Morrison, Steve Saunders, Fran Amendola, Robert Cox, Cynthia
Salters, and Archie Foster. They were assisted by UE Field Org. Mark
UE News - 12/00