UE Local 262 Fights Concessions at Cole Hersee Company

December 10, 2007

South Boston, MA 

Resisting a frightening list of company concession proposals, and in the wake of layoffs and the movement of some of the shop’s work to Mexico, UE Local 262 members at Cole Hersee – who manufacture electrical and electronic switches and connectors for the vehicle industry – have negotiated and ratified a new three-year contract.

The union presented its proposals to the company in July, and after several meetings on the union’s proposals, the company presented their proposals on August 30. The company’s demands included the workweek defined as 40 hours Monday through Saturday, with overtime paid only after 40 hours had been worked. The company also wanted to do away with two holidays — Columbus Day and Patriot’s Day — and replace them with July 4 and a floating holiday chosen by Company. Independence Day had not previously been a regular holiday because it was part of the July shutdown.

Another company proposal: "A $20.00 surcharge on employees who are enrolled in the health insurance plan and participate in certain unhealthy lifestyle decisions-defined as smoking. The money shall be used for healthy lifestyle incentives."

Another huge issue of concern was the defined benefit pension plan. The company proposed freezing the pension at the current level of $22.50 per month per year of service, and that workers earn no additional pension credit for future work. This is yet another example of the relentless attack by employers on defined benefits pensions. Cole Hersee bosses proposed to start a 401(k) savings plan, but offered very little in company contributions.

ATTACK ON PAST PRACTICE

The company also notified the union that it intended to terminate three past practices:

1. Six and 12 months’ health insurance continuation (follow FMLA 12 weeks). The existing practices were six months health insurance coverage when out due to non-work related illness or injury, and 12 months health insurance coverage when out due to workers’ comp-eligible condition. The company announced its intention to offer sick and injured workers nothing more than the FMLA requirement of 12 weeks insurance continuation.

2. Unpaid time off for union executive board meetings. The Local is an amalgamated local and its executive board meetings are scheduled to enable representatives of all shops to participate as well, usually at 12:30 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. In attempting to end the established past practice of excused unpaid time off for local executive board members to attend these meeting, Cole Hersee management was attempting to control UE’s business.

3. Physical therapy during working hours. The company announced that in the future, employees must make their physical therapy appointments after working hours, including therapy for work injuries covered by Worker’s Comp.

The company also made it clear from the beginning; they were not interested in putting any money on the base rates, and that any additional wages would come in the form of lump sums. This shop has major categories of workers, cell operators and day workers. Cell operators undergo performance evaluations in order to receive lump sum payouts. Day workers do not, but the company was pushing for all workers to be evaluated in order to get any future increases in pay compensation. The union, on the other hand, proposed that job evaluations for cell operators be eliminated.

The contract was to expire at midnight October 1. The membership approved an extension until October 11. After a few more meetings including a marathon session of 17 straight hours on October 11, an agreement was reached and ratified by the members.

The results: no changes to work week or overtime, no changes to holidays, no $20.00 surcharge for smokers, all three past practices continue going forward. The company had wanted to evaluate all day workers, but only day workers in the Jobbing 9J department will be subject to job evaluations, and no one be evaluated in the first year of the contract, including the cell operators.

WAGE INCREASES

On wages, the first year will provide a 30 cent per hour increase in the base rates of all employees. In the second year:, cell operators and 9J department workers will receive lump sums of $1200, $800, or $300, depending upon the employee’s evaluation, with one-half given each six months (April and October. ) In the third year, these workers will receive lump sums on the same basis as the second year.

In the second year, day workers not subject to evaluations will receive a lump sum of $600 (half in April , half in October) , and the same in the third year. Employees who were above the top of their rate will receive a lump sum of $624 each year.

The defined benefit pension plan was frozen and will continue to be funded to the $22.50 level. The 401(k) plan will include company contributions (before any employee contributions) of 2 percent in the first and second years, and 3 percent in the third year. Also, the company will match 50 percent of employee contributions up to 6 percent of the employee’s gross pay, including overtime and lump sums. The company is to pay of all costs of setting up the plan.

Sickness and accident pay is increased each year, to $320/$330/$340. Life Insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance is increased to $22,000/$23,000/$24,000. The annual dental coverage maximum is increased from $1000 to $1500.

The union improved contract language in several areas. Jobs will be re-posted if not filled within 90 days before the company can hire from the outside. Language governing progression to the top of the rate, that was inactive during the third year of the old contract, was reinstated. If an employee is injured on the job the day before or after a holiday, the hours lost will count to qualify for holiday pay. Each of the two shifts will choose their vacation schedules separately. Lumping the two shifts together for vacation scheduling had caused many problems under the old contract.

The union negotiating committee consisted of Shop Chairperson Bill Urban, Chief Steward Geri Mitchell, Vice President Kathy Maxwell, Financial Sec. Pamela Raye, Steward Fannie Greene and .Local 262 President Bill Lynch. They were assisted by Field Organizer Rachel Clough.

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