GE Appliances, union reach tentative deal on labor contract - WDRB 41 Louisville News

GE Appliances, union reach tentative deal on labor contract

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GE Appliance Park Zoneline production line, January 2016 GE Appliance Park Zoneline production line, January 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  GE Appliances and union leaders have reached a second tentative agreement on a new labor contract – a deal they hope will be more palatable to about 3,800 hourly workers at Appliance Park.

The revised deal comes after members of the IUE-CWA Local 761 rejected an initial contract proposal by a nearly 3-1 margin in November.

The latest agreement, reached Monday morning, must be ratified in a vote that could come as soon as Thursday.

Local 761 President Dana Crittendon said union negotiators were able to secure important victories, including raises for most of the park’s workforce, keeping the 10 percent pay differential for night shifts and preserving seniority rights in job assignments.

“I feel confident that the membership will recognize that their voices (were) heard,” Crittendon told WDRB News in an interview.

In a prepared statement, GE Appliances chief negotiator Eric Leef said the deal “address(es) some of the key concerns employees had with the first contract.”

The 60-year-old manufacturing park – where workers churn out refrigerators, washers, dryers and air conditioners – had been owned by General Electric Co. until June, when GE sold its appliance division to Qingdao Haier Co. of China.

Haier’s $5.6 billion purchase gave it the opportunity to establish its own contract with the Louisville workers. Appliance Park is the only factory in the GE Appliances group with a union workforce.

GE Appliances managers have said the park loses hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The latest contract preserves most of the cost-saving measures the company sought.

That includes creating a new tier of lower-paid new hires, who would start at $12 an hour for a six-month probationary period and eventually reach $14 an hour.

The company also would not budge on changing overtime rules so that time-and-a-half pay comes after 40 hours in a week instead of eight hours in a day, Crittendon said.

More than 80 percent of the park’s workers – those earning the lower-tier “competitive wages” of $15.51 or $17.69 an hour – would get raises in the latest contract proposal.

The previous contract had a series of lump-sum payments ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 while keeping hourly rates the same.

Crittendon said the competitive wage earners would get two bumps of 30 cents per hour in 2018 and in 2019.

The so-called "legacy" workers with grandfathered wages that can top $30 an hour will receive no hourly raise in the new contract, Crittendon said.

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