Momentive strike ends, new contract ratified

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Three union locals representing workers at two Momentive Performance Materials Inc. facilities have ratified a new contract, ending a more than three-month strike at the Waterford, N.Y., plant.

The three-year agreement passed on Feb. 14 by a tally of 378-211, ending the walkout at Momentive's Waterford plant that began Nov. 2, affecting about 700 employees represented by Locals 81359 and 81380. Also included in the contract is about 50 employees at Local 84707 at a Momentive site in Willoughby, Ohio.

The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 10. A Momentive spokeswoman said employees began training and recertification procedures Feb. 15-16, adding that once union members complete the necessary training they will return to normal shift schedules as early as Feb. 17.

Momentive used replacement workers during the 105-day strike, but neither side disclosed how much longer their tenure would last at the facility.

The new contract expires on June 25, 2019. Local 81539 consists of about 600 people at the Waterford manufacturing plant that produces silicone and quartz products, and Local 81380 represents about 80 other lab technicians in Waterford.

The employees at Local 84707 in Willoughby were not permitted to vote on the final deal, according to a union spokesman. Local 84707 initially joined the Waterford locals on strike but returned to work Nov. 14.

"We're pleased that Momentive workers have ratified the tentative agreement and their 15-week struggle to protect good jobs in upstate New York has come to an end," Dennis Trainor, vice president for CWA District 1, said in a statement. "It is understandable that some members felt that they didn't achieve everything they wanted or deserved, but this agreement represents a substantial improvement over the company's take it or leave it offer that sparked the strike last November. The Momentive workers and their families can be proud of the battle they waged and we are all grateful for the amazing support they received from the labor movement, the community and from elected officials."

Momentive thanked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and various other state officials for their help in facilitating the recent meetings with CWA leadership.

"We believe this agreement provides a fair, market-competitive package for our employees and their families while allowing Momentive to remain competitive," Jack Boss, Momentive president and CEO, said in a statement.

Two key issues for the union were health care and retirement benefits. The union confirmed that it was able to keep the 401(k) contribution rate at 7 percent, saying Momentive sought to decrease the rate to 6 percent. Any bargaining unit member who retires after Jan. 1, 2018, will not be entitled to life insurance by the company.

Vacation time has been altered; workers will no longer be granted a block of time for the year but rather accrue days as they go on a month-by-month basis. The contract stipulates the maximum amount of vacation days a bargaining unit member can earn has not been altered. The union confirmed that this change only affects the way vacation time is accrued.

Health insurance for previously retired workers will be eliminated going forward. However, the union said workers who retire by Jan. 1, 2018, will receive a cash payment of $40,000 to defer some of the cost of insurance.

Current workers will be moved into a modified plan and in 2017 will be responsible for 20 percent of the cost. That increases to 22.5 percent in 2018 and 25 percent in 2019, with the company assuming the remaining burden in each year. Employees will receive double the value of health savings account contributions compared to the previous contract.

The agreement also provides workers a $2,000 signing bonus, guarantees that all members return to the jobs they left upon ratification and provides arbitration rights to those employees.

Employees will receive a 2 percent raise in June of 2017 and 2018, per the agreement.

However, the agreement also outlined a voluntary retirement plan designed to reduce employment at Waterford. The plan consists of up to 100 packages spread out evenly in 2018 and 2019. According to the agreement, packages are being offered to employees at least 60 years of age with at least 10 years of experience. Those who accept the package will receive a $40,000 payout.

The agreement also outlined that Momentive will provide additional packages if it receives more interested parties than initially outlined, but may delay the retirement date for any oversubscribed employees up to Dec. 31, 2020.