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GE and its largest union reach tentative agreement

LYNN — General Electric and its largest union, International Union of Electrical Workers — Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) have come to a revised tentative agreement nearly a month after union membership rejected the initial proposal. 

Last month, IUE Local 201, which represents 1,253 employees at General Electric’s River Works Plant in Lynn, turned down a proposed four-year labor contract with the company, which was affirmed by a nationwide vote of the union. Employees at GE’s steam turbine plant in Schenectady, N.Y., also rejected the deal. 

IUE-CWA and GE negotiators returned to the bargaining table on Sunday and reached a revised agreement a day later. But whether the agreement is ratified is up to union membership, which is scheduled to vote to accept the deal or strike next Tuesday, Aug. 13. 

“The changes, we feel, make it a more reasonable contract,” said Adam Kaszynski, IUE Local 201 president. “We didn’t get everything we wanted. We never do. Corporate America is not easy, but we feel these changes reflected our major problems with the initial tentative agreement that was rejected. They addressed the top three of our bargaining priorities so we (the Local 201 Policy Board) voted to recommend to the membership.” 

Kaszynski said the union’s top desired changes in the contract were around healthcare, wages, cost of living increases and overtime. Only overtime was not addressed. The revised agreement allots an additional 20 cents in a general wage increase and 80 cents would be for a cost of living increase. 

Changes to the proposed contract over four years include a wage increase totaling $2.80 per hour, up from the initial $1.80, total cash compensation of more than $14,000, up from $12,000 and a 4.9 percent employee healthcare premium contribution in the final three years, which is down from the 5.9 percent contribution first proposed, according to the company. 

“The vast majority of our unions, representing 80 percent of our unionized workforce, support or have ratified this package,” said GE spokesman Richard Gorham in a statement. “We are pleased that the IUE-CWA leadership has unanimously endorsed the revised agreement, and recommend ratification by its members.” 

The Local 201 Policy Board, which includes Kaszynski, voted to recommend ratification of the contract, by an 8-2 vote. On Thursday, 201’s Stewards Council, which overwhelmingly rejected the original contract, will vote on whether to ratify. 

If Local 201 membership votes to turn down the contract again, it could be overridden by a nationwide IUE-CWA vote. Last month was the first time the union collectively voted to reject a national contract with the company since 1969. The current deal expired on June 23. 

IUE-CWA is the largest of the company’s 11 unions. Last week, another large union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) rejected its proposed contract and notified the company it plans to strike on Aug. 12. 

More than a half-dozen of the GE unions that make up the Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC) have announced that their members have ratified the four-year agreement, with additional CBC votes to come, according to the company.

Contract negotiations come at a time when the firm’s aviation business, including the River Works, are the bright spot on GE’s gloomy financial landscape.

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