Despite having negotiated a one-year contract extension in June 2020, the Joint Bargaining Committee unions (UE, IBEW, IAM and UA) representing factory service technicians who work for GE Appliances Factory Services entered into early contract negotiations at the end of January. The unions secured a new 15-month contract with solid general wage increases, a freeze on health insurance costs through December 31, 2022, and other gains.
The JBC unions decided to ask for early contract negotiations after finding out that company negotiated a longer-term deal with two breakaway unions who left the JBC in 2019. JBC union members were angered when they learned that the company had given the two other unions wage increases — after telling the JBC unions when it negotiated the one-year contract extensions that there was no money for wage increases due to the pandemic.
The JBC includes UE Locals 270 (Connecticut), 335 (Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse), and 707 (Cleveland). Factory service technicians repair home appliances. All of the JBC unions have national contracts for their members with the same terms and conditions.
Even though the two other unions agreed to additional unpaid drive time to get their wage increases, the JBC unions made it clear to the company at the start of negotiations that their members had no intention of agreeing to additional unpaid drive time. “The JBC unions stood firm on the issue of unpaid drive time which the company wanted to increase,” said Joe Parisi, president of Local 270 who represented UE factory service technicians in the negotiations.
“The company came into the negotiations confident that our JBC negotiating committee would accept their proposals, which were nearly identical to the agreement reached with the two other unions,” said Parisi. “The JBC unions laid out our proposals clearly and made a solid point to the company that we were not going to rubber-stamp the agreement it reached with the two other unions.”
The new contract includes wage increases of 5.25 percent for legacy techs and 6.25 percent for competitive wage (CW) techs over the life of the 15-month contract. In addition, the contract brings wages for the CW techs up to to 82 percent of the legacy techs’ wage rates. The techs will also receive additional paid sick and personal time of up to 76 hours on an annual basis, based on years of service. Techs who have ten years of service will receive an additional 2.5 days of vacation. The JBC was also able to beat back the company’s attempt to restrict the use of vacation time and floating holidays.
In a first for a national union contract, the JBC was able to get contract language in the event the U.S. implements a national single-payer Medicare for All system that commits the company to “discussing with the Union(s) the implications of any such national healthcare plan as it pertains to JBC members and their current healthcare coverage.”
The JBC negotiating committee included more than two dozen members, most of whom were rank-and-file factory service technicians. The virtual negotiations were conducted using the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services’ Ring Central platform.
The JBC unions wanted a 15-month contract that would expire at the same time as the two other unions’ contracts in 2022, to prevent the company from exploiting the division between the unions.
“It was great working with the JBC members and an honor to represent the UE locals at GE Appliances,” said Parisis. “I think this contract strengthens our position going into negotiations in 2022.” Parisi was assisted by International Representative John Thompson.