The members of amalgamated UE Local 299 who work at Entoleter decided on May 1 to strike to gain a cap on employee health-insurance costs and a decent raise.
Both goals have been achieved after seven-and-a-half weeks on the picket line.
The new contract, settled June 23, is the first with a new owner. Headquartered in Groningen, Netherlands, NIVOBA manufactures equipment and installations for the chemical, food, pharmaceutical and environmental industries. Entoleter has produced milling machines and air pollution control equipment for more than 60 years.
Eighty percent of the union membership has worked for Entoleter for more than 10 years, and many have been with the company for more than 25 years.
A year ago, faced with a plant closing, union members agreed to give up their defined-benefit pension plan to facilitate NIVOBA’s purchase of the business. Entoleter workers have not had a raise in two years.
The company’s last offer prior to the strike would have created the near certainty of wage cuts in the second and third years, due to steadily rising employee contributions without a cap on insurance costs. Workers refused to agree to open-ended, ever-increasing premium amounts.
Union members’ insistence on a fair contract carried them through nearly two months on the picket line.
The final settlement includes a $250 signing bonus and a significantly improved schedule of wage increases: 3.5 percent the first year, 2.5 percent the second and 3 percent the third. The average wage prior to the April 30 expiration of the old contract was $16.80 an hour.
As in the pre-strike offer, employees’ insurance contributions will be 5 percent of the cost the first year, 7.5 percent the second and 10 percent in the third. But there is a major change. If the premium cost increase is more than 15 percent in the second and third years, the employee cost share will be based on the 15 percent increase only. The company said it would never agree to such a cap.
The union committee included Chief Steward Ted Smith, Albert Caserta, Max Lowery and Jim Atlas. They were assisted by UE Field Org. Paul Ryan.