GE Contract 2011
GE National Contract 2011:
By Business Agent Ric Casilli
(Member of IUE-CWA GE National Negotiating Committee)
We are just about 10 months away from the opening of national negotiations in New York City with General Electric.Our veteran GE members need to talk to our newer members about the importance of this Contract and the need to stay informed and involved.With the current economic climate and early Company statements, all signs are pointing to an extremely tough negotiation. This will be my 5th National GE Contract and each one gets more difficult, especially given the economic and political climate in this country.
KEY LOCAL 201 ISSUES FOR CONTRACT 2011
Local 201, per usual, will be doing a Membership Contract Survey later this year to establish our members’ priorities. However, there has been a remarkable consistency over the years as to our members’ priorities. With the current demographics of age and service at the GE River Works, I would anticipate little change.It is highly likely that over 50% of our current workforce will retire under the 2011 and 2015 Contracts!! (assuming 4 year Contracts). This seems incredible but the big GE “hiring class” years of 1978 to 1982 will be all hitting the magical 60 year old mark, where one can take an unreduced pension with supplements and pre-65 health care. There is going to be a massive union membership turnover in two waves- one under this 2011Contract and another wave under the 2015 Contract.
PENSION ISSUES AND PRE-65 RETIREE HEALTH CARE
What this means is that the traditional contract priorities of Local 201, in my opinion, will become even more important and more urgent for members. I would be shocked if membership surveys do not demonstrate that the top priority is to be decent improvements in the regular pension, pension supplements, the guaranteed tables, and survivorship options with a strong Pension Update formula. The cost and benefit levels of pre-65 health care insurance will also be extremely important for many members reviewing any Contract offer. Members should be aware that the GE health insurance plans (GE Medical Benefits or GE HCP) that you are under as an active employee are the same plans you will be under if you retire until age 65…IF THEY ARE IN CONTRACT 2011. Even if someone 60 retiresnow under the current Contract and current medical plan, any changes in Contract 2011 to the plan would apply to previously retired members until age 65.This brings us to a major “rubbing point”. The new GE non-union salaried health care plans (GE Health Choice) comes nowhere near “passing muster” and its impact on our active members would be horrible enough, but on pre-65 retirees it would be disastrous if it found its way into the 2011 national Agreement.
Management employees’ postings on GE blog sites are hammering Health Care Choice! GE is being inundated with complaints. That GE non-union salaried health care plan is going to run into major opposition from the massive number of members about to hit 60 going on fixed incomes, along with the active current employees who would be saddled with it for years.Many IUE-CWA Conference Board leaders and members of the IUE-CWA National Negotiating Committee already have been getting complaints from current 60-65 retirees getting socked with the pre-65 medical cost increases during this Contract (even under our better health plans), while of course not getting the benefit of wage increases of our active members. I can just imagine the complaints if the new GE non-union salaried health plan was ever forced on us.Union proposals to address the issue of medical cost increases for active members and pre- 65 retirees were rejected by GE in Contract 2007, but will certainly be back on the table in 2011, heading for a direct collision with GE’s high employee premium and deductable so called “Health Care Choice” Plans.
This is one reason both the IUE-CWA National Conference Board Chairman and the UE Conference Board have issued sharp statements rebuking the so called “GE Health Choice” plans.
YOUNGER MEMBERS’ CONCERNS
Wages, Medical & NSD
Local 201 GE members under 50 years old represent about 25% of the workforce. Of course, Wages will be one of their top concerns but that shall dovetail with concerns about any GE Medical plan extreme cost increases cutting into these wages while trying to buy a house, pay a mortgage and/or raise a family. In addition to having decent general percentage wage increases with an improved COLA clause as protection from inflation, the younger members need the $1.00 per hour Night Shift Differential (NSD) for one’s first 5 years raised. Last contract, the Unions were able to drive it up from $.60 to $1.00, led by Local 201 young members' shop floor petition campaign.
SERO, SVLB, & SRB = Some Job Security
In addition, the Special Early Retirement Options (SERO’s), the Special Voluntary Layoff Bonus (SVLB) and the Special Retirement Bonus(SRB) are of extreme importance for younger members- not for them to retire under, as of course, they do not have the required age and service. However, it is theirbest protection from facing a forced layoff to the street as it minimizes that eventuality. It allows an older worker to choose retirement with added money and benefits, and save the job of the younger worker. Paradoxically, the SERO and Bonus Programs are even more important for younger members than they are for older members, it gives them at least some Job Security!!!!!
POST- 65 RETIREE ISSUES and NEW HIRE BENEFITS
Traditionally, Local 201 members have always stood up for those that went before us and those that are coming after us. The Unions were able to win a pension increase for retirees last Contract and will be pressing for another. The longer one is retired on a fixed income, the worse one’s financial situation is with rising Medicare and GE post-65 health plan costs and no cost of living protection embedded in the pension plan. Local 201 members have always showed their support for Local 201 retirees, both in generous donations to the 201 Retirees Council and support at their rallies. Members know the retirees fought for what benefits we enjoy today.
On the other end of the age scale, Local 201 members want to leave behind good jobs and benefits for those coming after us, including our children and younger community members. This caring for others is deeply rooted in the institutional fabric of unions – protect our brothers and sisters who will come after us. Last contract, this became a contentious issue with the Unions attempting to fight off major takeaways for new hires after Jan 1, 2008. GE had previously stripped non-union salaried members, hired after Jan. 1 2005, of rights and benefits in 7 areas – such as raising the unreduced pension retirement age to 65 from 60, eliminating their pension supplements, eliminating their post 65 insurances, making them pay 100% for pre-65 medical insurances and hits in 3 other areas. The Unions fought back against a plan nicknamed by union leaders “The Work until You Die Plan” and beat back 4 2/3’s of the 7 attacks from hitting union new hires. GE already has said verbally that they need to address getting rid of some more “legacy” benefits in 2011- so one can expect they will be back for another “bite of the apple” in some of these areas.
Local 201 GE members should begin preparing now for really tough 2011 Contract negotiations.
Forecast of an extremely tough 2011 negotiations
Veteran 201 Members need to talk to Younger Members
50 % of Local 201 Members to Retire soon under 2011 and 2015 Contracts………..Pensions,Health Care Costs,Pension Update& Supplements are critical issues
New GE non-union salaried Health Plan would hurt younger and older members, especially all 60-65 old members retired now or retiring under 2011 contract
25 % of Local 201 Members are 49 years old or younger……..Wages,Health Plan Costs, NSB & Job Security important issues(need SERO & Retirement BonusPrograms to protect their future jobs)
Post 65 Retirees (pension increase/medical cost relief)and New Hires face tough situation in Contract 2011. Local 201 cares about those that went before us and those that will come after us.