USW members approve Yokohama contract
By Chris Sweeney, Crain News Service
SALEM, Va. (June 4, 2014) — Labor peace will reign for four more years at Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Virginia L.L.C.
United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1023 in Salem voted to ratify the deal it reached with the unit of the Yokohama Tire Corp., securing labor stability and ensuring the plant will remain open through May 16, 2018, per a clause in the contract.
A Yokohama spokesman and Local 1023 President Steve Jones confirmed the deal was ratified after voting took place on June 1 and 2. Mr. Jones said the local voted about 75 percent in favor of the deal. The plant employs about 750 active union members, according to Jones.
Yokohama was not able to further comment in time for this report.
“I think it was a fair deal for all,” Mr. Jones said. “Us as a negotiating committee wouldn't have brought it back to our members if we didn't think it was a fair contract.”
Mr. Jones said the USW stayed within the concepts of pattern bargaining, following the deals that were ratified in 2013 involving the three largest tire makers: Goodyear, Michelin North America Inc.'s BF Goodrich subsidiary and Bridgestone Americas Inc.
Local 1023 didn't have to make many concessions in the negotiating process, according to Mr. Jones, and the final contract contained very few things that negatively impacted the union.
To the wire
Local 1023 had authorization to strike, Mr. Jones said, if a deal could not be reached by the expiration date. The union and Yokohama reached a tentative agreement on May 16, minutes before the midnight deadline.
Mr. Jones said the issues that went down to the wire included the defined pension multiplier, medical costs and weekly medical premiums.
“We had been going back and forth with revised proposals to get it closer to the point,” he said. “It just took us to those last few minutes to get to that point where both sides were happy with it. I thought it was fair for both sides. Our disability and defined pensions are big issues for our local membership here.”
The union said in a summary of the agreement posted on Local 1023's website that Yokohama sought to eliminate pensions for all newly hired employees in addition to eliminating the 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 monthly pension multiplier to $57 per year of service for employers retiring on or after June 1, 2014.
The USW said it improved the long-term funding of the pension plan by allowing past employees — who quit or were terminated — to voluntarily take lump sum payments if they are less than 55 years old at the company's discretion. This benefit may only be offered for a limited amount of time once the lump sums are calculated.
Yokohama, according to the USW's summary, said it wanted large increases to medical premiums. The union said the tire maker was looking to increase a family's premium to more than $73 per week by the last year of the agreement.
The union said it managed to keep weekly premiums at the following levels:
- Single, $13 per week;
- Single plus one, $25 per week;
- Family, $37 per week
Mr. Jones praised the union's performance on the medical and pension fronts.
New hires, new benefits
Another major point for the union was improvements for employees hired after April 16, 2007.
Mr. Jones said in 2007 a lot of the pattern bargaining process switched other locals to a tiered wage system, some locals receiving five, six or seven tiers.
Salem, however, went to a two-tiered system, which Mr. Jones said cut new hire wages across the board plus other negative effects. The union got a lot of those concessions back in this round of negotiations.
Under the new deal, the USW negotiated a 60-cent general wage increase for employees hired after April 16, 2007. 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.
Mr. Jones said Yokohama Salem still operates under a two-tiered wage system.
“Several issues the company got in negotiations in 2007 we were actually able to improve and get back for some of these new post 2007 hires in this contract,” he said.
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 allocation (COLA) rules. Under the new agreement, the company cannot reduce wages if the COLA calculation generates a negative impact, but 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 rubbernews.com, the website of Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sister publication of Tire Business.
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