UE Local 622 members have overwhelmingly ratified a new five-year contract with their employer, Saint-Gobain Ceramics, which includes $2.10 in wage increases. The yearly raises in hourly wages are 35, 40, 40, 45 and 50 cents. Workers also received a $500 signing bonus.
The union and company reached a tentative agreement on May 20, the scheduled expiration date, despite some disruption caused by the company firing the plant manager just before negotiations began.
The employer agreed to increase its contribution to each employee’s 401(k) retirement savings account by 35 cents per hour over the term of the contract (in yearly increments of 10 cents each of the first two years and 5 cents each of the last three years), bringing the employer contribution to $2.50 per hour in the final year.
The union was also able to negotiate improvements to the vacation schedule. Holiday pay for Christmas and Christmas Eve is increased to 10 hours pay for each day; it was previously five hours. Life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance benefits will increase from $40,000 to $45,000 in the third year of the contract. There was no change in health insurance.
One contentious issue was the company’s proposal to put the plant back on eight-hour shifts. Back in 1994 the company proposed a work schedule of four 10-hour days, and employees are used to that now and do not want to change it. At one point in negotiations the company negotiators got so upset that the union wouldn’t accept their proposal that they walked out on the union. “We weren’t budging on that,” says Local President Joe Mowry on the issue of shift hours, but the local did agree to give the company the option to post future jobs on an eight-hour schedule.
The union also shortened the amount of time the company could place an employee on a temporary transfer from 30 working days to 30 calendar days.
President Joe Mowry called the agreement “adequate” and said the union moved the company a long way from its initial wage offer of just five cents in the fifth year. He says the union leadership kept the members informed throughout bargaining and had their full support. The union bargaining committee consisted of Joe Mowry, Vice President Ed Guzik, Recording Secretary Ben Grace, and Chief Steward Bill Meager. They were assisted by UE International Rep. Marion Washington.