Friday, September 30, 2011

Oshkosh Corp. union meeting at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) today to consider contract proposal

Thousands of United Auto Workers Local 578 members have packed an Experimental Aircraft Association hangar this afternoon to discuss and vote on the most recent contract offer from Oshkosh Corp.

The company’s current, five-year contract with the Local 578, whose members number more than 3,000, expires at midnight tonight.

Union members on Oshkosh Corp.’s first shift and second shift were given an extra two hours off today to attend the meeting with first shift ending two hours early at 1 p.m. and second shift starting two hours later at 5 p.m.

Local 578 leadership expect the union's members to reject the contract offer from the company, but it is not clear if a rejection of the company’s offer would translate into a strike.

The company has offered 8 percent in raises over the life of the contract, increases to health insurance premiums that would raise them from $70-per-month to $280-per-month by 2016 and a $2,000 up-front signing bonus that expires at midnight tonight regardless of if negotiations continue.

At 2:30 p.m., Local 578 members continued to review the terms of Oshkosh Corp.'s contract offer in a closed meeting on the Experimental Aircraft Association grounds at Wittman Regional Airport.

There's been little sign of when the actual vote will take place, as the union's negotiating team continues to field questions from members about details of the company's proposal.
Earlier story:

With just hours to spare, members of the United Auto Workers Local 578 are expected to vote Friday afternoon on a new five-year labor contract proposal negotiated during several weeks of talks between the union’s bargaining committee and Oshkosh Corp. company officials.

The current five-year labor contract expires at midnight Friday. The employee vote on the proposal has been called for 1 p.m. Friday, said Nick Nitschke, union president.

Nitschke declined to say where the vote would be held.

Nearly 3,100 Oshkosh Corp. employees are eligible to vote. The measure needs a majority for approval, but Nitschke is not optimistic that the membership will accept the proposed contract.

“It’s the same package we’ve had before. My sense is that two thirds will vote it down,” Nitschke said.

If that happens, the next step for the union is to confer with the local union’s parent organization, the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, regarding the possibility of a strike. A strike vote would occur no earlier than Saturday, Nitschke said.

Nitschke said he had hoped for a better proposal from the company to avoid a strike.

The company’s best monetary offer provides a $2,000 signing bonus and 8 percent in wage increases spread over the length of the five years. Company officials have said the raises and signing bonus would offset increased health insurance premiums workers would pay under the new labor deal.

The company’s final offer would quadruple the amount an employee would pay for a family health insurance plan from the current $70 per month to $280 per month in the final year of the contract, a provision the bargaining committee did not like.

The signing bonus is off the table at midnight Friday, the end of the company’s fiscal year, said John Daggett, vice president of Communications for Oshkosh Corp.

In the latest round of talks, which ended late Thursday afternoon, the company made some concessions regarding contract language in the areas of lay-off and recall procedures, promotions, vacation, holidays and time off for bereavement to come closer together, Daggett said.

Daggett said the company’s proposal makes it possible for Oshkosh Corp. to remain competitive and continue to win new contracts.

“We urge the members to ratify the contract so we can continue to build trucks to serve the brave men and women out in the theater,” Daggett said.

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