Contract negotiations between Honeywell and representatives of United Steel Workers (USW) Local 7-669 began Monday evening.
To accommodate work schedules, the negotiations are currently scheduled to run each day — including weekends — from 4 to 10 p.m. local time.
A letter was sent to Honeywell employees from Plant Manager Jim Pritchett on July 17, announcing the current three-year contract expires Aug. 1 at midnight.
“The company will bargain in good faith to pursue a new labor agreement that is fair to employees while continuing to control costs and allow the plant the necessary flexibility to maintain the site’s competitiveness in a challenging global marketplace,” Pritchett wrote.
According to Pritchett, Honeywell has demonstrated its commitment to Metropolis by investing $177 million over the past 10 years in capital improvements, including more than $50 million in safety projects. This includes Honeywell’s 2012-2013 investment of more than $40 million to reinforce the plant against natural disasters to comply with post-Fukushima standards.
“As you know, the Metropolis Works operation has not been profitable for more than a decade, with losses during that time reaching $300 million. Today, we face some of the most challenging market conditions in our history, with nuclear power generation at the lowest levels since 1999,” says Pritchett.
Prichett points out in his letter this bad situation has been compounded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s practice of flooding the market for several years with uranium and UF6 from its extensive inventories at less than fair market value. “This practice, which is being challenged in federal court by our marketing partner ConverDyn, has significantly reduced demand and driven prices down,” said Pritchett.
Dalpe said he will email statements immediately when the company has something to announce and we will post our statements on the facility’s website located at: http://www.honeywell-metropolisworks.com/
In Pritchett’s letter, he urges everybody to remain focused on their jobs and work safety at all times, “Your fellow workers, the community and out customers are counting on it,” he said.
According to USW Local 7-669 Spokesman John Smith, on Monday morning Honeywell managers violated section 8(a) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when they gave direct orders for employees to remove union stickers from their coveralls. This action, according the union’s news release, was a concerted activity expressly covered by the Act.
The union immediately filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In a later phone conversation Plant Manager, Jim Pritchett, said that employees would not be disciplined for wearing the stickers, but refused to have supervisors communicate to the affected employees they are allowed to do so.
“This is not the way we wanted negotiations to kick off. Honeywell wishes to suppress the collective voice of the membership and intimidate employees who are already under enormous stress during the first round of negotiations since the 14 month lockout of 2010-2011. Our members need to be focused on doing their job safely without fear of discipline for exercising their legal rights,” said Stephen Lech, USW Local 7-669 president.
In 2010, after attempts to reach a new labor agreement failed, Honeywell locked out the members of USW 7-669 for 14 months before negotiations led to a new three-year contract.
“There is a legitimate safety concern related to mechanical and fire risks associated with the use of stickers in the workplace, and our front line supervisors at the facility took appropriate action, consistent with the site’s established work rules. In this case, given our focus on negotiating a new, fair labor agreement for the site and our interest in focusing all our energy on the negotiations, the site leadership has decided to defer to the union’s use of stickers in the workplace in this case,” said Dalpe in a statement released from Honeywell Monday afternoon.
According to Dalpe, on Monday, the company and union met and exchanged initial proposals. “As is often the case on the first day of any negotiations, there are significant differences in our proposals. However, the company is committed to good faith bargaining and reaching a fair and equitable agreement. The company looks forward to the resumption of negotiations tomorrow (Tuesday),” said Dalpe.
Out of Honeywell Metropolis’ 270 employees, 134 are in the union, according to Dalpe.
“On Monday evening we exchanged proposals with Honeywell. Both sides are proposing significant changes but there is also some common ground. Our Local’s Negotiating Committee is committed to fair, honest, good faith bargaining in order to reach an agreement that is fair to our members. At this time we are a long way away but hope to bridge that gap. Please visit www.usw7-669.com for the most up to date information,” said Smith.