Unions, GE Meet, Prepare
For Intense Week of Bargaining
NEW YORK – Monday, June 11
The "small table," comprised of representatives of the UE, IUE-CWA, IAM, IBEW, and UAW met with GE today to open a week of intensive negotiations.
As expected, the meeting was underwhelming. GE’s chief negotiator, William Casey, went through what he expected would be the ground rules of the final week of bargaining. He stated that GE would be "rolling out" a comprehensive proposal for a new contract over the next two and one half days, but offered no proposals of any kind today.
HEALTH CARE AND PENSIONS
By Thursday morning, we will of course have a much better idea of whether GE’s "roll" contains any bread worth eating, much less any butter, or whether it is best left unconsumed by CBC unions. Casey did say GE’s proposal would be "right-sized and appropriate" and that GE would not be "ashamed" of anything they put on the table. Forgive us if we find such pronouncements to be less than promising with respect to any great generosity to come on GE’s part.
The acid test of all this, however, will of course begin Tuesday morning when GE will present its proposals on medical insurance. Given the cost shifting jag GE has been on for the last 20 plus years, the company’s health care punch will likely be spiked with lots of additional costs to employees. The only question is how onerous the proposed cost dump will be.
This will be followed by a pension proposal tomorrow afternoon. Considering that the company is sitting on a $53 billion pension trust, which is overfunded by more than $15 billion, perhaps the offer will be "right sized and appropriate." We certainly hope so, but as of now we are taking no bets on the matter.
‘RELY ON YOUR SUPPORT’
Also getting underway tomorrow will be the two "large table" subcommittees, comprised of union negotiators from CBC affiliated unions. One subcommittee, co-chaired by Local 506 Business Agent Pat Rafferty, will deal primarily with pension and insurance issues. The other subcommittee, co-chaired by Local 506 President Frank Fusco, will handle contract language and job security issues among others. UE national negotiating committee members will also be present at both tables.
If the past is any guide, the week ahead promises to be both interesting and intense. As always, union negotiators will rely on the support of GE workers in plants and service shops across the country. Stay tuned!
UE was represented at the small table by UE-GE Conference Board Secretary Steve Tormey and UE General President John Hovis.