Local 120’s bargaining committee reached a tentative three-year agreement with NGK Locke late on September 28. The next day the members ratified the agreement by a large majority. The new contract brings raises of 8.25 percent: three percent the first year, 2.75 percent the second, and 2.5 percent in the final year.
Members received a ratification bonus of $500. New hire progression to full job rate is reduced from 48 months to as little as 18 months, depending on the employee’s performance. The union negotiated upgrades in pay rates for finish helpers, continuous kiln loaders, and green finish operators which will bring substantial boosts in pay for workers in those classifications. Red circled employees, whose rates are based on their former piecework earnings, will receive lump sum payments each year of $400, $400 and $200.
On healthcare coverage, the two sides agree to keep the existing self-insured plan, but with the following changes: Deductibles are reduced from the previous $500/$1000 to $250/$500. The prescription deductible was removed, and co-pays will be $10/$20/$35. A hospital admission co-pay of $300 was added, but it is waived when the patient is admitted through the emergency room. The dental plan was improved by adding some services that were not previously covered; these will be paid at 50 percent. Employee healthcare contributions increase by $5 a week in the first years and $5 a week in the third.
Weekly sickness and accident benefits are increased by $5 each year. Any employee who opts out of the NGK Locke medical plan will receives $350 each year. The new contract adds optional Flexible Spending Accounts.
The pension multiplier increases by $1.25 in the first year and $1.25 in the second year, bringing it to $26.25. Workers who continue working past age 62 will receive an incentive payment of $5,000 each year they remain on the payroll, provided they meet work a minimum number of required hours per year.
The contract establishes a joint safety committee to meet quarterly. The drug abuse policy is changed so that only the person responsible for an accident or injury is to be tested, and the follow-up period after a positive test result is increased from 12 to 24 months.
The union bargaining committee beat back several concessionary demands by the company. These included proposals for mandatory overtime, part-time flexible employees, elimination of automatic time-and-one-half pay for Saturday overtime and double-time pay for Sunday, removal of the employee’s average overtime hours from vacation pay, forcing employees to use of sick and personal days for absences, and pay cuts in the cutter classification. The members conducted several rallies at the plant during the final week, which clearly had an affect on the company’s bargaining posture.
"It was a hard-fought battle," says Local President Earl Tyson. "This was the year they were coming after us on a lot of things. All the members banded together. That made a great difference."
In addition to Tyson, Local 120’s bargaining committee included Vice President Ben Cook, Recording Secretary Bernard Caldwell, First Shift Chief Steward Richard Irving and Second Shift Chief Steward Tyrone Richburg. They were assisted by International Rep. Connie Spinozzi and Field Organizer Jim Ermi.