Nearly 200 workers continue to be off the job at a MonoSol LLC plant in Northern Indiana in a labor dispute centering around overtime.
A total of 192 union members at the facility were locked out Nov. 30 at the La Porte location as a previous four-year contract between the company and Teamsters Local 135 expired.
Teamsters Local 135 has called the company's contract offer substandard.
MonoSol, a unit of Kuraray Group, makes water-soluble films in the La Porte facility that are then used to make laundry pods.
Production has stopped in La Porte but continues at two other MonoSol plants in nearby Portage, Ind., as well as a plant in Lebanon, Ind., near Indianapolis. The company, with other manufacturing locations in the United Kingdom, Japan and Poland, indicated there is enough capacity elsewhere cover the lost production in La Porte.
A federal mediator has already overseen one bargaining session and another is scheduled for Dec. 18, said Matthew Vander Laan, vice president of corporate affairs for MonoSol.
A key sticking point in the dispute is the amount of time workers are on the job. Union officials are complaining about mandatory overtime. MonoSol indicated the vast majority of overtime — 97 percent — is voluntary.
"The issue seems to be predominately centered around overtime and the allocation of overtime," Vander Laan said during a Dec. 12 interview.
Some workers not showing up for their shifts has caused MonoSol to seek overtime from other workers in order to keep the plant's equipment continuously operating, the company spokesman said.
He said manufacturers face absentee issues that have become more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is a challenge for us as well that we have been committed to solving," Vander Laan said. He called the situation an issue "that's been vexing a lot of manufacturers these last couple years."
MonoSol has deemed its latest contract proposal a "final offer."
MonoSol, during negotiations leading up to the work stoppage, made two contract offers that would increase worker pay by more than twice the rate of inflation through hourly increases and a bonus, Vander Laan said.
The company is No. 63 in the most recent ranking of North American film and sheet makers by Plastics News.
Union representatives could not be reached via phone or email Dec. 12, but they have made it clear how they feel about the company's offers.
"MonoSol is trying to bully our members into accepting a substandard contract with forced overtime and we're not going to stand for it," Dustin Roach, president-elect of Local 135, has said in a statement.
The union's efforts include trying to exert pressure on the company by protesting outside of Procter & Gamble Co.'s headquarters in Cincinnati at one point. P&G uses MonoSol film to make laundry pods.
"MonoSol is forcing our members to work up to 22 mandatory extra hours every single week, under threat of dismissal. Procter & Gamble has a responsible sourcing policy that says suppliers must avoid any form of forced labor and respect their employees' right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. We're here today to call on P&G to demand that its supplier, MonoSol, stop its forced labor practices and stop the lockout," Roach said in his statement related to that event.
He called on MonoSol to hire more employees to fix the overtime problem. Vander Laan said the company is applying overtime rules based on the last contract negotiated between the two sides.
Union member Eric Hoffman, in a release from the Teamsters, has called the company "unreasonable" and "greedy."
"All we want is an agreement with reasonable hours so we can see our families," he said. "We need fair wages that keep up with inflation and the cost of living. We aren't asking for the world here."