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TUESDAY JUNE 9, 2015

GE BARGAINING UPDATE

TUESDAY JUNE 9, 2015

In the morning session, the GE Vice President of the Power and Water Supply chain put on a presentation regarding GE’s energy business. The GE Power & Water business has forty-five shops in twenty-two countries. He gave a broad view of the state of the business, new products, competition, and the state of the pending purchase of Alstom. He spoke about the stiff competition and the need to drive productivity, and he acknowledged the efforts of the union and its members at the Schenectady plant over the last few years regarding lowering costs, lean projects, and job flexibility, and the making of some “tough decisions that resulted in investment, additional work and jobs at this

The Company also made a presentation on the Life insurance and other Insurance programs, including A Plus Life Insurance, Term and GUL, Personal Excess Liability, Long Term Care Insurance, and the Survivor Support Service. The union praised the assistance the Survivor Support Service group gives to members’ spouses during extremely emotional and difficult times in their lives. Union bargainers also argued against the company “Benchmarking” of benefits, referencing the treatment of salaried employees who had lost their life insurance and the difficulty a person in that age group would have replacing that life Insurance.

In the afternoon session, the IUE-CWA bargaining committee presented their Defined Benefit Plan Pension proposals. The Union’s demands included improvements in all monetary areas of members’ pension benefits. The Union asked for the post January 1, 2012 New Hires to be restored retroactively into the Defined Pension Plan, for full benefit SERO and SERO 30 restoration, and SERO and VRIP “window” opportunities with replacement features. The Union made proposals to assist current and future retirees who under current provisions see no increase in their pension income once they retire.

There were numerous other pension proposals by the Union. The IUE-CWA GE bargaining committee received an initial report from our legal department on the June 5th, 2015 United Sates District Court ruling regarding the cuts in the salaried non-union plans and the lawsuit filed against GE. The Decision and Order supported defendant GE’s request to dismiss on one charge and supported the plaintiffs’ (Rocheleau and Kaufman) right to proceed on a second charge. The Union’s legal team will be studying the ruling and any and all legal implications for these contract negotiations.

PLEASE NOTE: Bargaining updates will provide members with a general overview of the daily negotiations. All contract negotiations occur “at the table” with designees that management assigns, and with representatives that union members elected/appointed. Historically, bargaining does not happen externally—on websites, within social media, or with local supervisors/management. Our bargaining priorities have been methodically prepared with member surveys and elected officers, and are presented “in-person” at the daily negotiations. The bargaining process starts out slowly, and increases as the negotiations near the June 21, 2015 contract expiration date. Members are encouraged to remain connected to official union communications, and continue to display solidarity and unity in support of our CBC bargaining team.

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2015

GE BARGAINING UPDATE

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2015

In the morning session, the Union’s bargaining team opened with a general statement outlining changes that should be made to the medical plan negotiated and implemented in 2011. The Union also presented the company with a comprehensive set of proposals seeking improvements (both cost and coverage related) in the following areas: GE Health Benefits, Dental,Vision, Disability, Life Insurance, Post-65 Health Plans, and restoration of lost benefits for those hired on or after January 1, 2008.

IUE-CWA Staff member Jim Ledford (Chairman of the Union’s Medical Insurance sub-committee) gave a presentation detailing how GE costs remained essentially flat since 2011, but employee contributions in the form of premiums, prescription cost, and user fees grew substantially. Ledford outlined the shift of medical costs to union active members and pre-65 retirees over the last four years and presented charts showing the economic impact the salaried post-65 plan would have, using a current union member as an actual example.

The IUE-CWA/CBC bargaining team also explained the degree to which wage increases have been eroded by health care cost increases and inflation. The topic of pre-65 retirees paying high medical contribution rates based on their last working wages rather than on their pension income was also raised by several members of the bargaining team.

Additionally, the Union finished presenting their Job and Income Security Article XXII proposals, including proposals for union and contract recognition in any asset sales, improving rate guarantee, increases in special voluntary layoff and retirement bonuses, and making Article XXII subject to arbitration –a subject ton which Chairman Bob Santamoor declared, “Its time has come.”

In the afternoon session, Mike Gorman presented on behalf of GE, giving an explanation and analysis of the Defined Benefit Pension Plan. The main point of the presentation was to illustrate that the “volatility” of costs associated with such plans is the primary reason companies are continuing to freeze or close the plans. The Bargaining committee is scheduled to present Union Pension Proposals tomorrow.

The Company also made a presentation on the Retirement Saving Plan (formerly S&SP), arguing that the plan is better than most comparable plans and explaining that the biggest obstacle in their view is getting those hourly hired Jan.1, 2012 and after (who do not have a defined benefit plan) to understand the importance of saving for the future.

The Bargaining Committee pointed out that it is difficult for this group of employees to save given their current wages and questioned the company’s growth assumptions concerning this plan, noting that it is subject to the “volatility” of market conditions. The Union will address the plan further in during the Pension presentation in Tuesday’s bargaining sessions.

PLEASE NOTE: Bargaining updates will provide members with a general overview of the daily negotiations. All contract negotiations occur “at the table” with designees that management assigns, and with representatives that union members elected/appointed. Historically, bargaining does not happen externally—on websites, within social media, or with local supervisors/management. Our bargaining priorities have been methodically prepared with member surveys and elected officers, and are presented “in-person” at the daily negotiations. The bargaining process starts out slowly, and increases as the negotiations near the June 21, 2015 contract expiration date. Members are encouraged to remain connected to official union communications, and continue to display solidarity and unity in support of our CBC bargaining team.

GE retiree lawsuit can proceed

GE retiree lawsuit can proceed

Hugh Baile, Connecticut Post

By Hugh Bailey

Updated 5:59 pm, Monday, June 8, 2015

A lawsuit filed by former General Electric workers about the company’s change to its retiree health plans can continue, a Wisconsin judge ruled Friday.

The lawsuit, filed last year in federal court, claims the company acted illegally when it changed its benefit plans. In September 2012, the company announced that plans would no longer cover retirees who had not turned 65 by Jan. 1, 2015. Last year, the company said it would terminate the plans altogether and give retirees the option of purchasing supplemental coverage through a private exchange.

In December, a judge rejected a request for a preliminary injunction, which would have stopped GE from changing the plans while the suit was in progress, and on Friday ruled on a motion from GE to have the suit dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that GE was not obligated to carry on the policy as it had existed, but said its action shortly in advance of making the change, where it issued a benefits-summary handbook that said it “expects and intends to continue the GE Medicare Benefit Plans described in this handbook indefinitely,” was problematic.

“… (I)t is plausible that the expects and intends language … could be regarded as misleading to the average participant,” Adelman’s ruling reads.

The ruling noted that GE, as the health plan administrator, has obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, which sets standards for private-sector retirement plans.

“(W)hen a defendant acts as a plan administrator, … it acts as a fiduciary, … and must act ‘solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries,’” Adelman’s ruling reads.

In response to the ruling, GE issued a statement that read: “GE is pleased that the judge agreed GE did not violate its contractual obligations to employees and we plan to defend our one remaining count of the complaint.”

hbailey@ctpost.com; 203-330-6233; twitter.com/hughsbailey

http://www.ctpost.com/business/article/GE-retiree-lawsuit-can-proceed-6314050.php

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2015

GE BARGAINING UPDATE

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2015

Today at the table, GE Benefits Specialist Kathy Sanchez gave a presentation on our current disability benefits plans, including Short Term Disability (STD), Long Term Disability (LTDI), Disability Pension Benefit, and Workers Compensation. The availability of the GE Customer Core Team to help people access their benefits was also part of the presentation. All of these plans are negotiated except for Worker’s Compensation. A short discussion followed the presentation, during which the Union staff and bargainers took the opportunity to inform the company that there is room for improvement in all of the negotiated plans and expressed their appreciation for the assistance the GE Customer Core Team gives members and union representatives in solving problems that occur with benefits delivery issues.

Guest speaker IUE-CWA Local 201 Retiree Council President Kevin Mahar provided the Company with a packet of information detailing the history of Retirees receiving pension improvements, going back to 1971, including specific examples highlighting the erosion of pensioners’ purchasing power over many years. He asked GE to consider a major pension increase re-adjustment for current regular and disability pensioners. The Company responded that their pension liabilities were still high because people are living longer and because of government requirements for pension plan funding to reflect these longer obligations. IUE-GE Conference Board Chairman Bob Santamoor challenged their remarks on pension liability, stating that those liabilities will decrease over time, and supporting the retirees’ need for a decent and deserved pension increase.

Mahar also gave the Company examples of salaried employees being devastated by the elimination of the post-65 plans. Chairman Santamoor demanded the Company begin giving us documentation to verify their claims on the post-65 plans.

The final presentation of the day surrounded Job Security issues. Some discussion and debate occurred on a number of items – including but not limited to prohibiting subcontracting and outsourcing, increasing layoff Income Extension Aid (IE) and severance pay.

Main table discussions resume Monday June 8.

PLEASE NOTE: Bargaining updates will provide members with a general overview of the daily negotiations. All contract negotiations occur “at the table” with designees that management assigns, and with representatives that union members elected/appointed. Historically, bargaining does not happen externally—on websites, within social media, or with local supervisors/management. Our bargaining priorities have been methodically prepared with member surveys and elected officers, and are presented “in-person” at the daily negotiations. The bargaining process starts out slowly, and increases as the negotiations near the June 21, 2015 contract expiration date. Members are encouraged to remain connected to official union communications, and continue to display solidarity and unity in support of our CBC bargaining team.

Bargaining Update, Thursday June 4, 2015

Bargaining Update, Thursday June 4, 2015

DEBATE ON POST 65 SHARPENS

Bargaining began with a management presentation on post-65 health care by David Speier, a Medicare and pension expert from Towers Watson. Beginning with the process a salaried retiree goes through upon turning 65, he spoke about the major parts of Medicare, the choices that retirees face, and the private exchanges that exist for retirees to purchase gap coverage. Speier listed the many large companies who have moved post-65 retirees into the private exchanges (AT&T, Dupont, GM, Fed-Ex, Kimberly Clark, Siemens, Whirlpool, and others), and spoke about the assistance and advocacy available to help retirees choose the correct plans and manage claims, etc.. The union’s assumption is that management was attempting to demonstrate that the new non-union salaried post-65 plan works “well” in an attempt to soften the Union’s position and gain support for the elimination of our post-65 retirees’ current Medicare supplement plans

IUE-CWA President Jim Clark, GE Conference Board Chairman Bob Santamoor, IBEW’s Randy Middleton, and many members of the IUE-CWA/CBC bargaining team expressed deep skepticism over GE’s claims that the majority of hourly post-65 retirees would have either the same or less out of pocket costs on the exchange plans. One bargaining committee member gave an example of an hourly retiree whose drug prices would soar if he were in the exchange. The bargaining committee expressed solidarity with the salaried post-65 employees and expressed anger over GE’s broken promises and interest in doing the same to retired hourly employees, long-time employees who retired based on the promises that GE made to them. Many members of the committee spoke heatedly on the issue and emotions at the table ran high. President Clark stated, “We have watched your presentation and you have heard from the committee. Frankly, we are not interested.”

In the afternoon session, the Union brought in guest speaker Joe Mangino, a 97-year former Business Agent of IUE Local 301 (Schenectady, NY), who served in various top Local 301 positions from 1967-1980, and repeatedly served on the Union’s GE National Contract Negotiating Committee. Joe gave a lengthy presentation, explaining why health care is important to him, his family, and his entire generation. He noted that the Union has always made health care a priority in GE Contract negotiations and often chose gains in Health Care over other negotiable issues in the final contract. He pointed out that the health care plans we have today were funded by employees’ money (hourly and salary), saying, “It is our money and our health care plans–not yours GE.” He said “trust” was the key element in the history of negotiations between the Company and Union officials, and insisted, “ I was angry as hell when I saw that the #1 GE Man was bragging about cutting post-65 health care benefits for current and future retirees and doing it against their own salaried members. That trust is gone! What are people going to do? I only have a $900 a month pension.” He pleaded with GE management to at least give people a choice of whether they want to go into the exchanges or stay with our currently negotiated post-65 plans. Joe received a heavy applause at the end of the session.

PLEASE NOTE: Bargaining updates will provide members with a general overview of the daily negotiations. All contract negotiations occur “at the table” with designees that management assigns, and with representatives that union members elected/appointed. Historically, bargaining does not happen externally—on websites, within social media, or with local supervisors/management. Our bargaining priorities have been methodically prepared with member surveys and elected officers, and are presented “in-person” at the daily negotiations. The bargaining process starts out slowly, and increases as the negotiations near the June 21, 2015 contract expiration date. Members are encouraged to remain connected to official union communications, and continue to display solidarity and unity in support of our CBC bargaining team.

Negotiations Update – Wednesday June 3, 2015

Negotiations Update – Wednesday June 3, 2015

Today at the table General Electric Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. Bornstein gave a financial presentation on the economic/market environment globally and in the United States, outlining GE’s profitability and future outlook company-wide and within in each of the individual business segments. Bornstein reiterated GE’s strategy to decrease GE Capital as a percentage of the overall business and increase the company’s core focus on manufacturing. The IUE-CWA and CBC bargaining committee members discussed with management the viability of current product lines and the possibility of new technologies and product lines being awarded to represented facilities.

The GE compensation and benefits team delivered a presentation on GE’s wage and benefit package for hourly employees, reporting that according to their numbers (which the union took exception to) the average hourly employee gained over $16,000 (10.5% growth) in additional pay over the four years of the 2011 contract. The IUE-CWA bargaining team, led by President James Clark and Conference Board Chairman Bob Santamoor, countered with information about the financial struggles of our competitive wage employees in particular, the various cost increases for all hourly workers which considerably mitigated that wage increase (i.e. increased premiums, higher out of pocket and deductible costs for healthcare), and the amount of savings the company realized from the 2011 benefits package change.

GE argued that hourly wages are some of the best in the market and stated their goal is to bargain a good compensation package that enables GE to remain competitive. The union took exception with the market wage figures in GE’s presentation, arguing that those figures were not representative of GE’s competition and did not take into consideration the skill level and quality of GE’s hourly union employees and the products they manufacture.

Later in the day, the company and union met to further discuss and clarify multiple IUE-CWA/CBC contract language demands from the day before on issues related to hours, overtime, seniority, vacation, sick and personal time, health and safety, and schedules/shifts. The union asked GE management to respect the rights of American workers to organize, and to sign and adhere to an International Code of Conduct to protect GE and GE supplier employees worldwide, to ensure them the rights of association, organization, collective bargaining, non-discrimination, adequate wages, limits on hours, occupational health and safety and prohibition on child labor, to uphold human rights in conformity with ILO conventions.

Finally, the IUE-CWA and CBC bargaining committee presented management with thirty-two demands on Job and Income Security, covering subcontracting and outsourcing, TOW situations, preferential placement, IEA, severance pay, decision bargaining, plant closing procedures and benefits, rate guarantee, SEROs, education and training allowances, and asking that the Union be recognized as the bargaining agent for retirees. To demonstrate the degree of job loss in the United States, the union read off a list of 30 plus plants which GE has closed since 1994. Management asked clarifying questions and deferred their answers for a later meeting.

PLEASE NOTE: Bargaining updates will provide members with a general overview of the daily negotiations. All contract negotiations occur “at the table” with designees that management assigns, and with representatives that union members elected/appointed. Historically, bargaining does not happen externally—on websites, within social media, or with local supervisors/management. Our bargaining priorities have been methodically prepared with member surveys and elected officers, and are presented “in-person” at the daily negotiations. The bargaining process starts out slowly, and increases as the negotiations near the June 21, 2015 contract expiration date. Members are encouraged to remain connected to official union communications, and continue to display solidarity and unity in support of our CBC bargaining team.

Bargaining Update for June 2

June 2, 2015 – Negotiations Update

In yesterday’s opening day statements (posted here), both the IUE-CWA and GE Management expressed their primary bargaining positions and agreed, with a ceremonial handshake, to dedicate themselves to working through differences toward a fair contract. Now the real work begins. The process of GE negotiations starts with each side making detailed and lengthy presentations of data and examples which support their position/demands on specific issues, and responding to questions from the other side of the table about that presentation and position. This morning at the table, GE Management presented on Health Care for Production Workers (active members and pre-65) at GE, defending their current (2011) plan and current bargaining positions on this very important topic.

They stated, “GE provides excellent support for employee heath through medical benefits, coaching, innovative tools and resources, and financial protection for catastrophic expenses.” The IUE-CWA and CBC bargaining committee actively questioned GE’s presentation and challenged their early suggestion that cost-sharing for employees should increase as opposed to decrease. GE argued that their plan is better than the industry standard (24% employee cost compared to nearly 30% at competitors), and they defended “consumer-driven” health care, saying that their plan protects employees and their families from catastrophic illness, and pointing out that the plan pays 100% of eligible costs once employees meet their out- of-pocket max. GE also presented on NowClinic and Health Coach, two 24 hour a day services which help employees manage their care and costs.

The IUE-CWA bargaining committee presented their Contract Language proposals to the Company except for changes to Article XXII Job Security – which the Union intends to present Wednesday afternoon. Some of the key proposals the Union presented would IMPROVE overtime pay, the $1.00 Night bonus provision, and improve provisions regarding seniority, service credits, paid time off,, arbitration and organizing neutrality The Company asked clarification questions and took notes,

Tomorrow in the AM session, the Company’s Chief Financial Officer is going to present a business overview followed by a GE presentation on Wages. In the Wednesday afternoon session, the Union is planning on presenting it Article XXII Job Security proposals.

PLEASE NOTE: Bargaining updates will provide members with a general overview of the daily negotiations. All contract negotiations occur “at the table” with designees that management assigns, and with representatives that union members elected/appointed. Historically, bargaining does not happen externally—on websites, within social media, or with local supervisors/management. Our bargaining priorities have been methodically prepared with member surveys and elected officers, and are presented “in-person” at the daily negotiations. The bargaining process starts out slowly, and increases as the negotiations near the June 21, 2015 contract expiration date. Members are encouraged to remain connected to official union communications, and continue to display solidarity and unity in support of our CBC bargaining team.

GE Union Solidarity Rallies Friday

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Union workers are organizing solidarity rallies on Friday at General Electric in West Lynn and plants across the country, just three days before contract negotiating are scheduled to open with the company.

Read More:

GE News Article Daily Item

General Electric breaks ground on $50m Hooksett expansion – The Union Leader

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HOOKSETT — GE Aviation broke ground Thursday on a new facility, where the multinational corporation will construct its state-of-the-art LEAP jet engines.

This month, GE Aviation, a branch of Schenectady, N.Y.-based General Electric, will begin construction on a 55,000-square-foot expansion to increase capacity driven by a backlog in its commercial engines business. This will represent a nearly $50 million investment in Hooksett over the next decade, according to a news release.

Employees at the Industrial Park Drive campus of GE Aviation were treated to a barbecue lunch catered by KC’s Rib Shack to celebrate the event. Plant manager Doug Folsom praised the Hooksett facility for contributing to GE’s success and innovation over the past 49 years, and that the new space would allow that to continue by manufacturing the LEAP engines.

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Source: The Union Leader

Developer closes on buying land for new GE advanced manufacturing plant in … – Pittsburgh Business Times

An affiliate of Charlotte-based SunCap Property Group closed on buying a property on Westport Road in Findlay Township to be used for a new General Electric Co. facility, according to public records.
SunCap, the developer working to build the facility, bought the property within the 300-acre Chapman Westport business park for $2.5 million from an affiliate of Leetsdale-based Chapman Properties.

Representatives of Suncap and Chapman were not immediately available for comment.

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Source: Biz Journals