Offer includes wage increases, pension cuts, and small language improvements
USW Local 3657 and the International Union reached a tentative agreement on a collective bargaining agreement effective September 1, 2014 until December 31, 2017. The contract includes changes to our pension plans that address the serious funding issues facing both pension plans. Under the new plan, we believe that our pension plan will be fully funded by 2021.
The tentative agreement also maintains our current healthcare plan for the term of the agreement and includes 2% wage increases each year of the contract, ratification bonuses, and bonuses for all employees on July 1 during each year of the agreement.
Click here for a full copy of the Tentative Agreement
Small Language Improvements
In addition to the economic package, the tentative agreement includes some small but meaningful language improvements.
Expanded Anti-Discrimination Clause—New agreement would expand our anti-discrimination clause to include race, color, religion, sex, creed, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or any other factor protected from discrimination by applicable municipal, state or federal law.
No Waiver of Right to Bargain Over Healthcare—The International initially proposed language that would allow them to unilaterally make changes to our healthcare plans without bargaining with our union. That language has been taken off the table and we have not waived our right to bargain over future changes to our healthcare.
Improved Lateral Transfer Language—When posting opportunities for lateral transfers the International will include, to the extent practicable, a description of the job duties and a description of any special skills, knowledge or abilities required to successfully perform the job. The International agrees that, where appropriate, it will attempt to select the most senior qualified applicant.
This would be a huge improvement over the current language if it were enforceable, however the language also provides the International Union the unilateral right to hire someone from the outside or choose another one of the internal candidates.
Expanded Organizing and Servicing Leave of Absence—The language regarding organizing and servicing leaves of absence is improved to provide payment of daily per diem allowance ($11/day while at home and $57/day while traveling) for employees in Job Classes 7 and 13 while participating in the program.
Expanded Pay for Knowledge—Expands pay for knowledge to add Microsoft Outlook to the list of approved courses. The maximum number of courses remains at three for a total of a 9% pay increase.
The Bargaining Committee’s Take on the Offer
The proposed agreement certainly falls far short of what we had hoped to achieve and the changes to the pension program will have an impact on almost all of us and our families. But even the most severely impacted employees will have good retirements and the changes in the pension plan provide us all with much-needed security and stability.
We are frustrated with the International Union’s approach of bargaining a pension solution with the Staff Representative’s Union that would inevitably impact all of the other bargaining units without involving us in the process. If we had been involved in the process from the start we probably would have addressed the challenges in a different way. But we believe that shoring up our pension funding levels to ensure that we all will be able to receive our pensions is the responsible thing to do and it provides everyone with much needed security. And we also believe that it’s much better to be bargaining these changes to the pension now than several years down the road when we’ve lost even more members and the funding levels are even lower.
The agreement does offer pay increases and bonus payments in each year of the agreement including a 2% pay increase on January 1, 2015. Our current agreement includes no pay increase in 2015.
This agreement does not address many of the serious language issues we’re facing. It falls short in providing an enforceable solution to our broken and unfair system for lateral transfers; it does not provide a plan to include our local in the process of improving the diversity of our union; and it does not create real new avenues for promotional opportunities for members in the building and in the field.
The agreement also does not address the fact that year after year our union continues to lose members. The Local 3657 bargaining committee put forward proposals that we believe could save the union money, help the USW better serve our members, and involve members of Local 3657 in the important work of growing our union. The International rejected those proposals.
Despite our frustration with the process and the failure of this agreement to address key issues facing our union and our membership the Local 3657 Bargaining Committee unanimously recommends ratification of this agreement. Throughout the bargaining process we pushed the International as much as we could and we do not believe that winning a better deal is going to be possible. We believe that holding up the agreement would only result in delaying bonus payments and wage increases to our membership.
While the small improvements we achieved with regard to contract language certainly fall short of what we believe is needed to make the USW the type of organization we believe it could be, it is worth noting that we were able to achieve more in terms of contract language improvements than any of the other bargaining units at the USW. That would not have been possible without the support and solidarity of the members of USW Local 3657 throughout this process.
Thank you all for your continued support and solidarity. We will follow up over the next few days with details on the process for voting on the tentative agreement.
Patrick Young, Dianne Babin, Lori Bookwood, Pam DelBianco, Chris Taylor