Thursday June 11, 2015

GE BARGAINING UPDATE

GE Bargaining Update: Thursday June 11, 2015

Along with Conference Board Chairman Bob Santamoor, his staff, and IUE-CWA Bargaining Committee members Brian Sullivan, Jake Aguinaga, Joe Noojin, Ric Casilli, Lance Bergman, Dana Crittendon, Bill Collins, Andy Blades, Rick Madal, and Eric Dejohn, there were three guests on the Union side of the main table this morning. Local 788 President Troy Mallory, Local 120 Vice President Irv Plummer, and Local 120 Recording Secretary Dan Hanratty joined the bargaining committee for today’s scheduled discussions of the IUE-CWA/CBC Service Center Proposals. In solidarity with the membership, the Bargaining team came to the table today wearing red CBC-GE Workers United t-shirts.

GE began the morning with a presentation on Layoff and Severance benefits for hourly employees, arguing that they had compared GE layoff and severance benefits to those of other large manufacturing companies and found that the GE package stood out above the others. Conference Board Chairman Bob Santamoor expressed concerns with the manner in which the company administers the preferential hiring program, noting situations in which long-time employees have suffered tremendous pay cuts, and warned that GE risks losing good employees with extremely valuable skills. Santamoor and the bargaining committee reiterated that there are improvements that need to be made to the layoff and severance benefits, but that the Union’s main emphasis is on preventing job loss. The union argued that we need strong contractual job security language and not just income security language. “We don’t want to leave NYC with out enhanced language to prevent plant closings,” Santamoor stated. “We have bolstered layoff language over the years – now we need to find a way to stop plant closings.”

The IUE-CWA/CBC Bargaining committee presented a list of Service Center proposals to GE. IUE-CWA represents eleven service shops around the country, and the committee noted that we have illustrated our desire to work with the company to protect the jobs we have and the people we represent. The Union proposal topics included travel and layover pay and allowances, tool and shoe allowances, subcontracting, transfer of work, upgrades, time off, the process by which openings are filled, and oversea travel and safety, among others.

GE asked clarifying questions and did not respond to the proposals at this time.

The IUE-CWA/CBC team again expressed the union’s unhappiness with the current health care program, and furnished management with more examples of situations where employees had large out of pocket costs. In one case, a member had to scramble to pay high deductible and out of pocket costs before a family member could get a medically necessary surgery. Many members of the bargaining committee spoke on how difficult Wage Works is to navigate and how the large deductible hurts our members.

In the afternoon session, Jason Larson from GE presented a business overview of the GE Service Operations; 4% of the total CBC Union employees work in service, doing installations of new equipment, and inspections, maintenance, repairs, and upgrades of existing equipment. IUE-CWA and CBC represented technicians travel to customer sites around the world and also do service within GE shops. They work in the Power and Water, Aviation, energy management and Transportation segments. Larson noted that service has a highly skilled workforce, and emphasized that service shops are at the core of GE serving customers. He also noted an “increasingly competitive landscape” in service.

IAM’s Tom O’Heron introduced Neil Gladstein, IAM Director of Strategic Resources, who gave management a presentation on the value of the defined benefit pension plan (GE Pension Plan) vs. the defined contribution plan (Retirement Savings Plan or RSP). Gladstein reported that the RSP lacks the protections of the GE Pension plan, and he listed other benefits of the GE Pension Plan, including diversification, lower fees, professional money managers, and guarantees by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. (PBGC)

Gladstein closed with a comparative example of an employee making $60,000 a year retiring after thirty years under the GE Pension Plan and the same employee retiring under the Retirement Savings Plan. He determined that under the current RSP, the employee in question would have significantly less retirement benefit than under the GE Pension Plan. He noted that GE either needs to up their contribution to the RSP or return everyone to a defined benefit plan. GE countered with what they consider the “pros” of the RSP, including its portability if employees leave GE and go to work for other companies. GE also stated that most companies are running from defined pension plans for many reasons, including government reporting rules, and that the trend was not likely to reverse. GE repeated their earlier assertion that the RSP plan is more generous than many other companies’ plans and that if employees save consistently, they can do well.

IUE-CWA/CBC Bargaining committee members spoke in support of Gladstein’s presentation, noting concerns about stock market volatility, the difficulty of saving for retirement under a competitive wage, and GE’s savings under the RSP.

Negotiations will resume tomorrow, Friday June 12th.

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.