OUR YOUNGER MEMBERS

Business Agent’s Column

By Ric Casilli

 

OUR YOUNGER MEMBERS: SOME KEY GE 2015 CONTRACT ISSUES

                                                                                                                                                 

This is the 8th article in a series of information regarding issues for GE Contract 2015. Previous articles are listed under the Contract Updates tab (drop down menu for GE) or “GE Contract 2015” on front page of our Local 201 Web Site.

 

In just over 3 months on June 1, 2015, National Contract Negotiations will begin with GE in NYC. I have reported extensively on the importance of a number of immediate impact pension improvements that are important in this Contract, with the high number of Local 201 members eligible for retirement in the next 4 years.

 

I would now like to raise some key issues, of special importance to ouryounger members that need to be addressed during these negotiations:

 

1. The GE Health Benefits Plan for Production Employees was shoved on us in the 2011 Contract. Improving our Medical Benefit Plan came out #1 in all surveys across the country for good reason. Members are tired of footing such a large cost for a medical plan that has such high premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and out of pocket maximums and a low Company contribution to our HRA accounts. The plan is not good for members at any age including pre-65 retirees on a fixed income. But such members will come off those plans in a few years at 65. However, our younger members cannot afford to be saddled for years and years with this high cost poor Health Plan. The Company has indicated they are not interested in giving substantial wage increases with an improved COLA, tohelp pay for the growing employee costs under this current Health Care Plan. Well, there are only two ways to help the younger members in their stage of life of paying high rents and/or mortgages and raising families – either drastically reduce the members medical cost sharing and/ or raise wages significantly. It is important this contract provide economic improvement and stability.

 

2. Eliminate the 2 Tier Night Shift Differential (NSD) Clause

This clause found its way into the National Contract in 1988 where a new hire (with no prior GE service) would receive only $.60 per hour

rather then 10% for 2 ½ years while working a back shift. In the 1991

Contract the time period was increased to 3 years, and in the 1994

Contract to 5 years. From 1997 to 2006, the union resisted GE attempts to make it even worse. Then, during last Contract in 2007, a campaign started by Local members on the back shifts against the two tier clause helped in reversing the tide and getting the $.60 increased to $1.00 per hour. The increase was a win but even the $1.00 is still below the percentage value of what the $.60 was worth back in 1988 relative to wage rates. What is really needed is elimination of the two tier system and returns everyone to the 10% level. Two tier systems create stir up feelings of jealousy, unfairness, discrimination etc. in the workforce- all elements in direct contradiction to GE desires to have people work together and “teaming”.

 

3. Maintain and Improve the regular Special Early Retirement 

Option (SERO) and Retirement Bonuses (A Job Security Demand)

 

Everyone knows these options incentivize an older member to retire

either early (55-59 years old) under SERO or after 60 years old

under the Bonus. It makes retirement more affordable. However, what

often is overlooked is the Job Security aspect of these two programs for the younger members. It helps protect in a big way younger members from losing their jobs and being forced on to unemploymentSERO is especially critical to the job security of younger members. The Company for years has rejected union proposals for real job security like sub-contracting limits and guaranteed employment levels. They have accepted proposals however to pay for the right (SERO Benefits and Bonusesto reduce the workforce without as many layoffs. In 2011, they took most of the SERO Benefits away for a senior worker willing to substitute for a younger worker being laid off. The little “job security” the contracthad hereto provided was now severely weakened. The full benefitSERO for substitutes” needs to be restored to protect younger members from layoffs. Significantly raising the $18,000 Bonus when tied to a reduction in force also would help protect younger members from a forced layoffIf not – then provide some real job securitylanguage!

 

4. Stop any more Company Two Tier attempts on New Hires and restore benefits that have been previously eliminated The Company in the 2007 Contract took some pre-65 medical benefits and all post 65 benefits away from members hired after Jan.1, 2008. In the 2011 Contract they took away our Defined Pension Plan from members hired after Jan. 1, 2012. This is shameful. Our younger members need their defined pension plan and retirement medical benefit plan reinstated. And the enhanced 401K plan, they received as a poor substitute for losing their pension plan, needs big improvement and should be applied to all members.

 

Besides being clearly unfair to new Hires, these type proposals are a direct threat to all current members as can be seen clearly now with GE’now stripping of “legacy” non-union salaried post 65 benefits and complaining about the “no freezing” language in our current Contract for this 2015 Contract regarding our defined pension plan.