Major Issues Unresolved;
Sunday Promises to be 'Intense'
NEW YORK – Saturday, June 16
The penultimate day of bargaining for a new national contract has now come and gone with the outcome still very much in doubt. The two sides jousted in earnest for many hours Saturday, but at this point there is no victor and no vanquished.
The union did manage to gain some ground in such areas as pensions, wages, and paid time off, but in other areas, notably medical insurance, only limited progress has been made – and that came in agonizingly small bites. The main components of GE’s no-holds-barred attack on your medical coverage remain very much on the table.
REMAINING ISSUES COVER
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE GE WORKERS
Some less fiercely contested issues were cleaned up, including contract language, apparatus service shop issues, and improvements in some minor benefit plans. The unions dropped several proposals and pressed on with others in a long day of parry and thrust. But while some of the smoke has cleared away, the outlook remains decidedly hazy.
The SERO window, which debuted on Friday in a brief cameo appearance, has yet to be flushed out, and remains a major unresolved issue. Nor has the company shown any inclination to grant to our retirees a badly needed and long overdue pension increase. GE seems interested in talking about retirees only when it comes to increasing their medical co-pays. Otherwise, they tell us they don’t recognize our right to bargain on their behalf, over and over like a broken record.
RENEWED SENSE OF SOLIDARITY
IS 'SOMETHING TO BEHOLD'
Then there is the elephant in the room, about which little was said on Saturday. This of course is the issue of new hire benefits, or more appropriately new hire lack of benefits. It was apparent to us back in January of 2005 when this went into effect for salaried exempts, that the day of reckoning for our union on this issue would inevitably come. Sunday is that day.
So the stage is set for what should be a most intense, interesting and important Sunday. This time GE workers are not only fighting for a slice of justice for themselves and their families. They are also fighting for those who preceded them and for those who will follow.
Whatever the outcome, GE workers across the country have demonstrated a renewed sense of solidarity and fighting spirit which has been something to behold. These are the qualities which will stand the union in good stead, not only tomorrow, but in the years ahead.
UE was represented at the small table by Conference Board Secretary Steve Tormey and General President John Hovis.