THE IUE-CWA GE National Negotiating Committee, at about 12 Noon today (Tuesday June 21st), voted 9-1 to recommend acceptance of the "small table agreement. That recommendation now goes to a meeting all IUE-CWA GE Conference Board delegates that shall begin at 9AM on Wednesday June 22nd in NYC.

I voted to reject the "small table agreement. I feel obligated to say why I voted to reject. I would also like to say this is no reflection at all on any of my fellow bargainers. They all did not like the provisions I mention below and THEY ALL FOUGHT HARD AGAINST THESE NEGATIVE THINGS I MENTION BELOW. But they felt, we did the best we could with the state of the economy and the political environment we find ourselves in. 

The agreement clearly has some good points and some gains in many areas - it clearly was a package designed for members looking to retire this year, helps current pre-65 retirees, is ok for current post-retirees and is (in general) "ok" for members that are approximately 52 and older also. The agreement throws a lot of money into taking care of these groups of people and get them to the "promised land" of a decent retirement . The Company paid more than they would have liked to upfront but it was for a principle they so clearly articulated repeatedly in negotiations  - to RESET the business for the new economy. (meaning the radical elimination of long time traditional programs that were fought and won by our forefathers.)

The following are now gone for New Hires:

  • The Defined Benefit Pension Plan for New hires (replaced by a Defined Contribution Plan)
  • Pension supplements, 
  • Disability Pension
  • Post 65 medical plan
  • Retiree Life Insurance Plan
  • Have to  pay 50% of cost for pre-65 retiree medical insurance

In addition, the popular traditional SERO program, we won in 1988 (as an important Job Security feature), has been eliminated,(for all practical purposes, gutted and rendered meaningless). If a person now volunteers for SERO to protect a young service worker from being laid of to the street, they shall get NO pension supplements and have to pay 100% of the cost for pre-65 medical and dental and are NOT eligible for any post -65 insurances. Who is going to take SERO now? You get supplements benefits if you are "directly impacted" but how many members 55-59 with 25 or over years of service will get ever be "directly impacted (except in a plant closing type mode) ??? The removal of this key provision shall lead to more layoffs and farmout in my opinion.

The Company also got their structural change in to as a "reset" for the future in Health Care - we are now all going into the high deductible Health Choice Plan structure. We were able to modify some of the provisions of it to make it better than the Salaried cost plan in terms of our costs but it is still increased cost shifting and lays the solid basis for additional cost shifting in the future. In addition, if you get sick or disabled (not work related) under this plan, you will lose your free company paid medical coverage after one year and not be eligible anymore for the extension of coverage for an additional 1-2 years as is the case now.You would have to pay for COBRA yourself.

The lump sum payment of $5,000 upon ratification helps again members retiring in the next year or two as it is up front money (applied to their pension calculation) and they would not be working long enough to realize the gain if it was in their base rate. But for members working for many more years, the loss of that pay not being in their base rate multiplies upon itself and impacts benefit areas also. It may be very attractive to a young worker on 2 tier wages for the short term but it hurts in the long term. Lumps sums are pigs with lipstick on them.

As I said there are clearly some improvement in areas like Pensions and disability pensions (improvement will not apply to New Hires) for current members and sick and vacation time improved for certain "years of service" brackets".

But these gains are overshadowed about the "reset" of our pension and benefit packages - partially impacting current members now and totally impacting our next generation of new hires. If WE do not stand up for the "new hires" - who is going to? it is only a matter of time (likely in 8 years), that the "second class" GE member will be the majority of the current members and thus our current members aged 18-52 will see GE attempt to freeze their Defined Benefit Pension Plan. (as the majority will not be in it or care about it). It will also lead to a "second class" of members that will not care about pre-65 or post 65 health insurances of those of us that retire, as they will not have it and we will blamed for giving it away for them.

On the 3 big defensive issues - Health Care, New Hires Pension & Benefits, and SERO - I feel we lost. We got some upfront gains in areas at the cost of our future.Contrary to some rumors I heard coming from the Company over the last few weeks, that I would vote "no" no matter what was in the Contract - that is absolutely a ridiculous assertion! I have voted for 2 of the last 4 contracts (2000 and 2007). We were clear where we stood in terms of priorities in this contract for the last year and these 3 above issues were high on that list - much higher than some areas where a lot money was thrown in this contract.

The IUE-CWA Conference Board delegates shall vote tomorrow (Wed June 22) and after that vote - detailed information will be released to members in the shops across the country beginning Thursday. Our other 3 delegates arrived in NYC today- Jeff Crosby, Ted Comick and Len Redican for tomorrows meeting and vote.