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IUE Local 201 in Lynn rejects GE contract

LYNN — Members of the International Union of Electric Workers (IUE) Local 201 in Lynn voted to reject a tentative agreement with General Electric on Tuesday, union President Adam Kaszynski confirmed.

But late into the evening, the Local 201 union, which represents 1,253 employees at the General Electric Aviation’s River Works plant in the city, was still waiting on the results from other local IUE sites to determine what their vote means, in terms of whether it would represent a rejection of the national contract, according to Kaszynski.

GE spokesman Richard Gorham didn’t have confirmation on Lynn’s vote and therefore wouldn’t comment specifically, but said if Local 201 had voted down the deal, the rejection could be affirmed or overturned, depending on how the other IUE sites across the country voted. 

A majority vote from members of all of those sites determines whether the contract is accepted or rejected. Each site participates in a block vote, so, for instance, a “no” vote from Lynn would result in 1,253 ‘no’ votes no matter what the final tally was, according to Gorham. 

Eleven unions, representing 6,100 GE workers across the country, voted on a proposed four-year contract with the company on Tuesday. The current four-year deal with those unions, which represent a fraction of the company’s global workforce, expired on June 23. 

Under the proposed deal, employees would receive three general wage increases totaling $1.80 per hour, two accelerated cash payments totaling $3,000 and a ratification bonus of $1,500. According to General Electric, based on an average wage of $31 per hour, that would result in an additional $10,450 in cash compensation over the length of the contract.

General Electric and union negotiators have been bargaining wages, healthcare and retirement at a time when the firm’s aviation business, including the River Works, are the bright spot on GE’s gloomy financial landscape. The current contract expired three weeks after negotiations began in Cincinnati. 

Kaszynski has been watching the bargaining closely to see if it produced an across-the-board wage increase. 

Drama preceded Tuesday’s voting with 201’s national bargaining delegates to accept the tentative agreement on June 24 followed by a 201 Executive Policy Board in favor of the agreement two days later. 

But on June 27, 201’s Stewards Council overwhelmingly rejected the agreement by a 30-3 vote. 

Gorham said the company and unions have successfully negotiated 14 consecutive national contracts and many more local contracts over the past four decades. 

Bargaining unfolded against a backdrop of tough times for GE. 

According to a company statement, GE stock prices plummeted from a 2016 high point of more than $30 a share to $10.16 posted on Jan. 31. 

The company has cut costs, reduced stockholder dividends and reorganized. 

Aviation remains GE’s strong point with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) announcing earlier this month that a defense spending bill passed by Congress includes more than $200 million for the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). The next-generation military helicopter engines will be built at the River Works. 

River Works employment has also surged since 2016 after the company and unions negotiated a market-base wage agreement. The pact spurred a multi-year hiring effort.

The last contract negotiated between GE and its unions in 2015 paid $15,500 to each union employee over the contract life, according to the company statement, including lump sum payments; an hourly rate increase, and cost of living hikes. 

Kaszynski said union employees haven’t seen a general wage increase boosting their base salary since the contract negotiated in 2011. 

Without a general increase, he warned union workers face wage stagnation coupled with a potential increase in health insurance costs setting up a formula for a reduction in their standard of living.  

 

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