CONTACT Scott Slawson 814-899-3108
(June 12, 2019) ERIE, PA—The members of UE Locals 506 and 618 ratified the first four-year contract agreement with their new employer, Wabtec. The ratification comes on the back of 128 days of negotiations. This contract reaches an agreement on terms of employment, including pay, benefits, hours, leave, and health and safety policies.
“The UE workers building Wabtec locomotives are the best in the world,” said Scott Slawson, UE Local 506 President. “The grit and discipline of this workforce has been on display throughout this difficult process, but there is no doubt that these workers will prove their worth with their new employer as they have for generations.
“From day one of this process, our members have been committed to protecting a healthy and safe work environment, while supporting our families and local economy—this agreement sets a course that will provide Wabtec an opportunity to grow and succeed in Erie County.”
About UE Local 506
"UE" is the abbreviation for United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, a democratic national union representing workers in a wide variety of sectors. UE Local 506, which represents 1,700 hourly workers at the Wabtec plant in Lawrence Park, Pennsylvania, is a rank-and-file-union whose members set the policies of the union and make all of the decisions of importance in a democratic and collective manner. UE Local 506 has represented GE workers since 1937. To learn more about UE Local 506 visit www.uelocal506.com.
After 128 days of negotiations, the UE bargaining committee of UE Locals 506 and 618 have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract with Wabtec. This tentative agreement is being recommended by the Bargaining Committee to our Board and the 1,700 members of UE Local 506 and 618 for ratification.
On Tuesday, June 11, we will hold three special membership meetings at the Bayfront Convention Center at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 3:30 p.m. to explain all of the details of the agreement. Ratification votes will take place at the Union Hall from 5:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12. Please make plans to attend, as your voice matters.
The tentative contract reaches an agreement on terms of employment, including pay, benefits, hours, leave, and health and safety policies. The contract agreement includes the following:
- Maintain current wage rates for existing Wabtec employees.
- Ten-year progression to full wage rates for new hire employees.
- A commitment for new work equivalent to 100 full-time employees by the end of the contract.
- Continuation of voluntary overtime.
- Five-year recall rights.
- Former GE Transportation employees who were on the recall list will receive preferential placement for
- new hire employment with the restoration of seniority.
- Overtime premium pay after eight hours / double-time after 12 hours.
- Standard Monday-Friday work week.
- Up to six weeks of paid vacation, based upon years of service.
- Up to 5 paid personal days, based on service.
- Twelve paid holidays.
- Improved health and welfare benefits, including medical, dental, vision, life and disability benefits.
- Retirement (401K) plan with a 3% Company contribution plus an additional 3% matching contribution.
- Maintained Income Extension Aid (IEA).
- Protected benefits for 26-weeks.
- Four-year agreement.
As you all know, we area rank-and-file-union whose members set the policies of the union and make all of the decisions of importance in a democratic and collective manner. Your ratification of this tentative contract is an important step in the process, as we all stand should-to-shoulder with our union brothers and sisters.
We are proud of this union’s resolve to stand up for the entire community and the next generation of highly skilled workers who will continue to support the middle-class economy of the Erie Region.
In its communications to Erie Workers, Wabtec has given a one-sided presentation that doesn’t give a full explanation of how their contract proposals will negatively affect all Erie workers over a four-year contract. Here are some of the company’s proposals and how they will negatively affect all Erie workers:
- Two-Tier Wages – The company’s proposal will slash the average wage by $12.16 per hour, saving the company more than $51 million over a four-year contract. The company has not given the Union an economic justification for this huge wage reduction outside of its ongoing threats. Current Erie workers, who are laid off and exhaust their recall rights, and are rehired by the company, will be hired at the two-tier wage rates.
- Job Classifications – The company’s proposal consolidates the current 33 job codes down to 21 new job classifications, endangering the safety of Erie workers. The company’s proposal will also cause current Erie workers in ten job codes to lose pay if they move for any reason after the first year.
- Management Rights – The company will be able to do just about anything it wants, without negotiating with the union, including “the unqualified right to establish and enforce minimum standards of production and quality for all operations and job functions in the Erie Plant. In the event an employee’s production or quality is below such standard, the Company reserves the right to transfer or discharge the employee and replace such employee with some other employee who can maintain minimum standard production.”
- Subcontracting – The company shall have the unlimited right to subcontract…any work at the Erie Plant that has previously been performed by subcontractors.” In other words, the company will be able to subcontract everything and not bargain with the Union over its decision.
- Temporary Workers – The company “will have the unqualified right to utilize temporary workers to perform production and maintenance work during the term of this Agreement provided there are no qualified bargaining unit employees on layoff and the temporary workers do not exceed ten percent (10%) of the bargaining unit workforce.” Why will the company want to hire new employees if it can use temporary workers?
- Layoff and Recall – The company’s proposal will greatly limit seniority rights for bumping and recall purposes. Recall rights are also capped at three (3) years for employees with more than twenty years of service; two (2) years for employees with ten or more years of service; and one (1) year for employees with less than ten years of service.
- Job Vacancies – Seniority will be the last determining factor taken into consideration for job bidding. In other words, the company will be able to pick who they want for job vacancies.
- Hours of Work – The company’s proposal would permit the company to implement continuous operations schedules, including (12) hour shifts, on any manufacturing, maintenance or warehousing operations.
- Vacations – Vacation eligibility is capped at five (5) weeks, except for employees who currently have six (6) weeks.
- Personal Illness Pay – Employees will only be eligible for twenty-four (24) hours of personal illness pay per calendar year, which may not be carried over from year to year. Any personal illness pay not used in the calendar year will be forfeited. Employees are expected to give 24 hours’ notice prior to utilizing personal illness pay and the company reserves the right to require medical documentation.
- Income Extension Aid (IEA) – The company rejected the Union’s proposal for IEA and has not proposed one-year of protected benefits. Laid-off employees will lose their health insurance benefits at the end of the month that they are laid off unless they pay the total costs of their health insurance benefits.
- Severance Benefits – The company’s proposal will greatly reduce the amount of severance benefits available for Erie workers in the event of a plant closing. The company’s proposal will limit the amount of benefits to one week for each year of completed service with the company, up to a maximum payment of twenty (20) weeks of severance allowance.
- Medical Leave – The company’s proposal will require employees to use their paid illness days and any accrued vacation for approved FMLA leaves of absence for any reason other than their own occupational or non-occupational illness or injury. In other words, if you have to take off to care for a sick family member, you will have to use your paid illness days and vacation time.
- Grievance and Arbitration Procedure – The company’s proposal is a greatly weakened procedure that undermines Erie workers’ protections and rights. The company is under no obligation to settle grievances and could force every grievance to costly arbitration, which they know the union will not be able to afford. The company’s proposal will also not permit the right to strike after exhausting the third step of the grievance procedure.
- Union Representatives – The company’s proposal will undermine the union’s organizational strength on the shop floor and limit the stewards’ ability to represent the members.
- Safety – The company is proposing to eliminate elected safety coordinators and replace them with bid positions, compromising the hugely successful safety program.
The Union has proposed a new highly competitive wage proposal which could save the company more than $130 million in reduced labor costs over the four-year contract while protecting current Erie workers’ wages and jobs. The Union’s proposal will also give new hires a path to the legacy wage rates. The proposal also includes job guarantees that the company must recall all laid-off GET employees in order of their seniority and create 400 new additional jobs over the four-year contract.
Due to the active support of the UE membership, the company withdrew several of their concessionary contract proposals this past week in negotiations, including mandatory overtime, reductions in overtime premium pay and an undefined work week. However, the company’s other new counter proposals on recall rights, personal illness time and vacation time are at reduced rates that our members had under the GE-UE National Agreement. The Union intends to offer counter proposals to address these shortcomings in upcoming negotiations.
Despite the Union repeatedly rejecting competitive wages, Wabtec is still insisting on lower, two-tier wage rates for new hires, including former GET employees who haven’t been recalled. Under the company’s proposal, current Erie workers, who are laid off and exhaust their recall rights, would be rehired as new workers under the lower, two-tier wage rates. The company has refused to offer a new wage proposal for current Erie workers since its first wage proposal when negotiations resumed in March. The company also rejected the Union’s proposal on Income Extension Aid (IEA) this week.
Even though the company paid out nearly $120 million in bonuses to GE and Wabtec executives after the merger, the company is demanding huge concessions that will negatively impact our members and our community. When asked by the Union why the company needs these concessions, the company’s answer was this is what they promised their Wall Street investors and large shareholders. Apparently, Wabtec wrote a check for GE Transportation that it expects our members to pay.
The Erie plant has been profitable under the terms of the GE-UE National Agreement, which Wabtec is seeking to destroy. Wabtec is realizing an additional $17 million in annual cost savings from the elimination of the defined benefit pension and retiree health insurance for Erie workers, which it refuses to acknowledge.
UE members are willing to work with Wabtec to bargain a fair contract that will keep the company profitable and good jobs in Erie, but as our members demonstrated earlier this year, we’re not willing to sell out future generations of Erie workers.
The next negotiation sessions are scheduled for May 20, 21, 23 and 24. The Union will continue to provide our members with updates. Your continued support will determine the outcome of these negotiations.
More info: “Like” UE Local 506 on Facebook or visit our website www.uelocal506.com
Representatives of UE Local 506, UE Local 618 and the UE National Union met with Wabtec’s negotiating committee during the week of April 22 - 25. The two sides continued to exchange proposals - both economic and non-economic, but there is little progress to report.
The company is insisting on lower, two-tier wages for new hires and laid off GET employees - if they’re recalled, without offering an economic reason for this demand and other than the threat that they can get the work done somewhere else.
New hires and laid off GET employees are not the only workers facing lower wages under the company’s economic proposals. Current employees’ wages could be reduced after one year, if they move for any reason – bidding, exercise bumping rights or recalled from a permanent layoff – under the company’s proposed lower Tier 1 wage rates. If current employees lose seniority for any reason, they would be rehired at the Tier 2 wage rates. In addition, current employees, who have the 10 percent shift differential, would lose the 10 percent shift differential if they move to 1st shift and then move back to an off-shift.
The company is still insisting on mandatory overtime. In addition, the company would reduce overtime premium pay by making overtime pay only for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a regular workweek. The company is proposing to eliminate the defined workweek, which is currently defined as Monday to Friday inclusive. In other words, the company could schedule you to work Tuesday to Saturday, or Wednesday to Sunday. The company is also proposing to have the ability to put any area of the plant on a continuous operations schedule.
The company is proposing to reduce our members’ paid time off by capping the amount of vacation an employee can earn to four weeks, unless you currently qualify for five weeks or six weeks of vacation. The company is also proposing eliminating Sick and Personal Pay. Any unused sick and personal pay will be paid out in the first regular payroll period in 2020.
The company’s Management Rights proposal would basically allow the company to do just about anything it wants at any time, including the “unqualified right to establish, modify and enforce minimum standards of production and quality for all operations and job functions in the Erie plant.” If an employee’s production or quality is below such standard, the company “reserves the right to transfer or discharge the employee and replace such employee with some other employee who can maintain minimum standard production.”
The company’s Union Representation proposal would greatly restrict the union’s ability to represent our members at work. The company is also insisting on maintaining its grievance and arbitration process and eliminating our right to strike, which will weaken our members’ rights and protections on the job.
As you can see, this is not just about two tiers.
The next negotiation sessions are scheduled for May 7, 13, 14, 15 and 17. The Union will continue to provide regular updates for our members. Your continued support will determine the outcome of these negotiations.
For more info: “Like” UE Local 506 on Facebook or visit our website: uelocal506.com
Negotiations are wrapped up until following the Easter holiday. Minor adjustments were discussed but no major agreements have been reached since our last Bulletin.
We continue to work toward reaching a multi-year contract agreement on behalf of our 1,700 members, their families and our communities. As always, each element is discussed with you during our membership meetings and the position of the membership is represented at the negotiating table. The Members Run this Union! Please join us on Thursday at your membership meeting.
Our negotiating team is working in earnest toward a transparent contract that secures a healthy wage, workplace and quality of life for all members of the highly skilled workforce acquired by Wabtec and responsible for quarter after quarter of record-setting profits GE and its shareholders. We remain willing to negotiate economic and non-economic elements of the contract, and to helping Wabtec negotiators understand the relative importance of each element.
Negotiations are complex and difficult, but we believe that there is a viable solution that maintains Wabtec’s competitiveness, and that both sides can come to a fair agreement that includes worker protections, safety and quality-of-life, as well as wages commensurate with the skill-level of advanced manufacturing workers.Download or view this bulletin as a PDF