Published on May 30, 2014

Salem local to vote on Yokohama pact June 1-2

By Chris Sweeney, Crain News Service

SALEM, Va. (May 30, 2014) — United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1023 in Salem will vote June 1 and 2 to ratify a tentative labor agreement reached with Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Virginia L.L.C. on May 16.

Local 1023 President Steve Jones confirmed the tentative deal and the polling dates. The two sides agreed to a contract on May 16, minutes before the previous deal was set to expire.

If passed, the contract would run through May 16, 2018. According to a summary of the tentative agreement on Local 1023’s website, the unit of Yokohama Tire Corp. promised not to close the plant for the life of the pact.

“We had the authorization to strike if need be, if it came to that,” Mr. Jones said. “It was to the point where it was hard to say. We were prepared, let me just put it that way, if we didn’t feel we’d get a fair contract.”

Mr. Jones declined to comment on specifics until the union voted on the agreement but confirmed that the negotiating committee recommended that members ratify it. He said the plant consists of about 750 active union members.

Agreement meetings were scheduled for the week of May 26 with the polls to close at 6:30 p.m. on June 2, according to Mr. Jones.

Mr. Jones said the bargaining followed the USW’s concept of pattern bargaining, which began last year with the ratification of deals with the three largest tire makers: Goodyear, Michelin North America Inc.’s BF Goodrich unit and Bridgestone Americas Inc.

“I think it was a positive and fair contract for both sides,” Mr. Jones said. “Here at Yokohama, our guys work hard and efficiently. I think we were able to get a fair contract that everybody should be happy with.”

In its summary of the tentative agreement, the union identified pension and medical benefit issues as central issues. The USW said Yokohama sought to eliminate pensions for all newly hired employees in addition to eliminating double disability supplemental payments for everyone.

The union said it maintained both its current pension plan and double disability pension supplements “as is” for all employees. In addition, the USW secured an increase in the multiplier to $57 per month per year of service for employees retiring on or after June 1, 2014.

The USW said it improved the long-term funding of the pension plan by allowing past employees—quit or terminated—to voluntarily take lump sum payments if they are less than 55 years old at the company’s discretion. This benefit only may be offered for a limited time once lump sums are calculated.

The union, in its summary, claimed Yokohama wanted large increases to medical premiums. The union said Yokohama was looking to increase a family’s premium to more than $73 per week by the last year of the agreement.

The USW said it managed to keep weekly premiums at the following levels, and that they will not change for the term of the contract:

• Single, $13 per week;

• Single plus one, $25 per week;

• Family, $37 per week.

While the union said there are no changes in the annual deductibles, the Affordable Care Act requires the maximum out-of-pocket include annual deductibles, but the USW said its workers will not pay any more than they currently do. Other changes from the Affordable Care Act include:

• Removal of the annual and lifetime benefit caps;

• No benefit cap on hospice care;

• Women’s health benefits cover all female plan participants;

• Benefits shall be available to all children of the employee under 26 years old.

Another major point for the union was improvements for employees hired after April 16, 2007. The USW negotiated a 60-cent general wage increase for these employees upon ratification of the agreement. Workers who have worked less than three years will be paid for bereavement leave and gain super seniority bid rights, even though they do not have a job bid, under this agreement

The USW negotiated a 25-cent general wage increase for all maintenance unit employees, according to the USW’s summary of the agreement. The union said it was able to keep the company from capping vacation allotments and negotiated an additional week of single days, bringing the total to 15.

The union negotiated changes to the cost of living allowance rules. Under the new agreement, the company cannot reduce wages if the COLA calculation generates a negative impact, but it does not have to add any COLA money until the calculation generates above the highest peak during the term of the agreement.

This report appeared on the website of Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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