In the shadow of plant closing and job cuts, negotiations for a new contract covering nearly 15,000 workers at General Electric got underway in New York this week. The IAM represents approximately 1,500 GE workers at nine locations and is one of 10 unions negotiating with General Electric as part of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee.
The IAM delegation in New York included a cross-section of local, district and headquarters representatives, including IAM Headquarters Vice President Rich Michalski; IAM Director of Collective Bargaining Tom O’Heron; Director of Strategic Resources, Neil Gladstein; District 10 Business Representative Don Griffin; Local 1916 President Larry Nunley, Local 1916 Chairman Leo Reisinger, Local 912 Committeemen Lloyd Friend and Court Lillard. Significant resources from IAM headquarters will also be made available to the IAM Bargaining committee.
Among the issues under discussion in the opening sessions were: financial information; health care and new hire information as well as wages and pensions. Additional issues that will be raised in response to IAM members’ concerns are: job and income security; SERO window and plant closings; disability programs; vacations and sick leave.
Despite profits that topped $11 billion in 2010, GE has imposed a health care plan on its salaried and management workers with huge deductibles, massive co-pays and co-insurance. The plan would substantially increase health care costs for many active GE employees and shifts significant health care costs to retirees as well. Beginning in 2011, GE also eliminated the defined benefit plan for management new hires, despite a well-funded plan with assets in excess of $45 billion.
While proposals regarding health care and pensions for union members at GE have yet to cross the bargaining table in New York, representatives are urging their membership to be vocal, vigilant and involved in the negotiations.
“We are asking for your support through these tough negotiations and ask that you show your support by letting management know your thoughts on the tough subjects we are discussing,” said the IAM Bargaining Committee in a bulletin to members. “Let them know your position on their new Health Care program. Let them know your thoughts on new hires. Let them know where you stand on retirement benefits.”