Local 1107 Prevails
In Talks with New Owner
Local 1107 successfully concluded negotiations with the new owners of
Farnam Sealing Systems last month, despite giveback demands. Union members on Nov. 20
ratified a new two-year agreement with significant improvements in wages and benefits.
Farnam Sealing Systems is a manufacturer of gaskets and sealing systems
for the Big Three automakers and some aftermarket. The workers at this facility in rural,
central Wisconsin have been represented by UE Local 1107 since November 1993. Employment
topped out at nearly 300 a year ago, but is currently around 230 production and
CHANGES WILL BE MADE
Farnam had been previously owned by Coltec, a moderately diversified
manufacturing concern which in early 1996 decided to exit the auto industry. The last of
Coltecs auto parts plants to be sold, Farnam was acquired on Jan. 1 by Meillor S.A.,
a French firm.
According to the new top management, the union had been too successful in
previous negotiations; changes would have to be made.
The company came into negotiations with a laundry list that included a
reduction of job classifications by nearly half, an end to automatic time and one-half on
Saturday and double-time on Sunday, erosion of seniority rights, reduction of recall
rights and limitations on union representation.
In the meantime, the union had organized a contract support committee and
prepared contract proposals in consultation with the membership.
DEFENDING SENIORITY RIGHTS
Confrontation occurred over the issue of seniority rights. The company
insisted that top jobs be picked on the basis of "skill and ability." Led by the
contract support committee, Farnam workers wore home-made stickers denouncing the
companys givebacks. Even stronger support was demonstrated on second shift.
On the third day, as things were winding down, irritated bosses threatened
to send home any worker still wearing stickers when second shift started. As second
shifters came in wearing stickers, they were sent them home. This prompted those who had
thought the message had been sent, and had stopped wearing their stickers to put them back
on. By the end of the night, nearly half of second shift had been sent home. No one lost
pay or received further disciplinary action.
The final agreement contains no reduction in seniority rights, vacation
scheduling flexibility, union representation, no changes in overtime rules or probationary
periods, job combinations or health care cost increases.
5.3% PAY INCREASE
The average shop wage increases by 5.3 percent effective Dec. 1; wages
increase by 3.3 percent in December 1998. The shift premium goes up by 5 cents the first
The sickness and accident benefit will rise to $185, with a $10 increase
the first year and $5 the second year. The pension benefit advances by $1.50 in each year,
reaching $20 a month for each year of service in December 1998. An increase of $3,500 in
life insurance the first year brings the benefit up to $28,500.
The contract adds a fifth week of vacation at 25 years, reduces notice for
single vacation days from 60 to 14 days, increases the maximum amount of vacation pay from
45 to 50 hours, reduces the number of hours needed to qualify for vacation from 1600 per
year to 1500, allows a break after 9 hours instead of 10 and allows holiday pay for
workers on sick leave.
The new agreement increases condolence leave for grandchild from one day
to three days and adds one day for spouses grandparent. A switch from sick days to
personal days will allow half-day use.
Also, employees voluntarily downgraded through a posting will retain their
rate of pay until classified.
The UE Local 1107 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. Glenn Bush,
Mike Bluell, Revawn Cox, Dennis Blundon and Sue Wollschlager. They were assisted by UE
Field Org. Tom Ellett.
UE News - 12/97