UE-GE 2011 Contract Information: Negotiations Summary - Monday, June 13 (#10)

Summary #10
Small Table Calm –
Before Upcoming Storm

New York – Monday, June 13

UE-GE National Contract negotiations moved into its final week today with the first meeting of the so-called “small table.” Representatives of five CBC unions, UE, IUE-CWA. UAW, Machinists (IAM), and IBEW, met with four company representatives.

The small table members are empowered to negotiate, and if possible, conclude tentative agreements with GE on all bargaining issues, subject ultimately to Conference Board and membership approval.

Today, however, there was nothing much either to agree or disagree about during a brief session which lasted under an hour. The meeting consisted merely of an exchange of pleasantries and discussion of a few logistical issues such as meeting times, communications, etc.

But if today’s atmosphere was pleasant enough, there can be no doubt that toxic clouds of GE’s making will be raining down beginning tomorrow.

GE’s Union Relations head, Mike DeSantis, allowed that GE would be “rolling out” its proposals on medical insurance tomorrow morning followed by pension proposals in the afternoon. But it’s GE workers who will be the ones getting rolled if the Company has its way on these vital issues.

'Like inhaling asbestos'

Judging from GE’s presentations over the last three weeks, as well as its Focus newsletters and other “softening-up” propaganda over the last several months, there is no need to wait until tomorrow to figure out where the Company is headed. We will surely see the totality, or at least some form, of GE’s Health Choice plan. This is GE’s vehicle to implement a massive medical cost shift from themselves to GE workers.

In the afternoon, we’ll get a GE proposal to put the Pension Plan on death row by excluding new hires from joining it. The company has blithely contended this unprecedented move has “no impact” on current employees. It’s like saying inhaling asbestos has no impact on your health. The symptoms may not be felt immediately, but the long term effects are no less lethal.

So we’ll surely be getting two big doses of GE’s bad medicine tomorrow, even as we plan to regurgitate it right back at them across the small table.

Also getting underway tomorrow are the two “large table” subcommittees. One will deal with benefits issues, primarily insurance and pensions. The other will take on contract language, including job and income security among many other topics.

UE negotiating committee members will join with their counterparts from other CBC-affiliated unions at the large tables.

Developments will be coming thick and fast over the next week. We will continue to have daily reports available here on the UE website.

UE was represented at the small table by General President John Hovis and Conference Board Secretary Steve Tormey.