Local 234 members sing ‘Solidarity
Forever’ as they march to a noon-time rally near the end of
negotiations. Fairbanks workers marched right into the plant; their
singing echoed through the hallway.
Insurance and pensions emerged as major issues in recently
concluded negotiations between UE Local 234 and Fairbanks Scales. The
intervention of a united membership proved crucial to a successful outcome.
Local 234 negotiates two contracts, for the factory and office
bargaining units. Fairbanks Scales is a long-established and well-known
manufacturer of scales and balances.
With a 56 percent increase in insurance premiums, the company
looked to change insurance plans. The UE committee researched plans and had an
insurance broker make a presentation to Fairbanks management.
New Medical Plan
The union agreed to a company proposal for a new plan that
offers 100 percent coverage of office visits and a $15 co-pay, an
out-of-pocket maximum of $750, individual, and $1,500, family, after the $250
deductible. A "reasonable and customary" schedule replaces the
outdated dollar schedule of benefits. The new plan also includes a
prescription drug card and coverage of home health visits. The plan allows for
free choice of health care providers within a preferred provider list.
Members’ contributions change slightly and will remain the
same for the term of the agreement.
Union and management were sharply divided over pension
improvements. In the end, Local 234 secured increases in the multiplier from
$16.50 to $17 in the first year and to $17.25 in the second year. In addition,
the union eliminated the cost reduction charged to the retirees’ pension
benefit for the election of the pre-retirement spouse’s benefit.
Life insurance advances by $2,000 to $25,000. Accidental death
and dismemberment increases by $1,000 in each year, from $16,000 to $20,000.
In these negotiations, Local 234 succeeded in eliminating vestiges of an old
two-tier system in the accident and sickness benefit; now A&S applies
equally to all labor grades. The A&S benefit is increased to $225 a week.
Wage and Benefit Gains
Wages are improved by 35 cents the first year, 3 percent the
second year and 2.5 percent the third year.
The union eliminated one progression step for the three lowest
labor grades in each unit; new employees will reach the top of the grade three
months earlier. Two jobs are upgraded, with a wage increase of 45 cents.
The contract establishes a new eye-glass program with
allowances of $60, $80 and $90, depending upon which type of glasses are
needed. Step-father and step-mother are added to the immediate family for five
days’ bereavement leave.
Local 234 members remained united throughout negotiations and
demonstrated their concern over the major issues. Fifteen to 25 members sat in
negotiations as observers right up to the last hours of negotiations. Their
strength, support for the committee and solidarity became crucial in securing
a fair contract covering the next three years.
The Local 234 committee consisted of Pres. Bill Gould,
Vice Pres. Reg Haselton, Chief Steward Bob South, Divisional
Steward Mechanical John Charron, Divisional Steward Electronics Tonya
Brown, Chief Steward Office Polly Scott, and Office committee
member Sharon Frechette. They were assisted by Field Org. Rachel
UE News - 12/99