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GE Workers To Vote On New Contract That Slashes Hourly Wages

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Following months of negotiations, 4,000 GE employees at a Kentucky-based facility will vote on a new labor deal between the company and it’s workers.

The employees, represented by the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers – Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) Local 83761, have been negotiating with the company for months following Qingdao-Haier’s purchase of the appliance business from General Electric this past winter.

China-based Qingdao Haier Co. bought the GE appliance operation in Louisville, Kentucky, for $5.4 billion. The company has asserted that cost cutting measures must be taken in order to stay competitive.

The tentative four-year contract decreases hourly wage salaries for future employees and restructures overtime and work rules. Under the proposed contract, new employees would start at $12 an hour, $3.52 less than entry-level hires currently make.

Instead of a salary increase, workers will receive $5,500 in annual increments starting in January under the deal. The company also pledged to invest $90 million into four manufacturing buildings at the Kentucky-facility.

The proposal would mean that new workers would spend their first year in what is called a “flexible workforce pool.” Once a regular position becomes available, the employee would shift over to full-time and would receive $14 per hour and benefits.

The proposal would also alter overtime payment rules. Currently, employees earn 1.5 times their hourly rate after eight hours. Under the new contract, workers would receive 1.5 times their hourly rate after completing 40 hours in a seven day work week.

New employees would receive 50 cents an hour more for working second and third shifts, which is less than the additional 10 percent that employees hired prior to Jan. 1, 2012 now receive for picking up evening and overnight shifts.

The contract would also eliminate bumping and would increase the company’s 401K contribution.

GE said that the proposed deal would bring its pay and labor practices in line with others in the industry. GE’s Appliance Park is losing money, according to GE spokesperson Kim Freeman. “We desperately need to turn (that) around,” she said, adding that “This contract is much more in line with our competitors.”

The union’s president acknowledged that some members remain unhappy with the proposal, but defended the agreement.  “There’s a lot of good out of what some are seeing as a bad contract,” Dana Crittenden, IUE-CWA Local 83761 president, told the Courier-Journal.

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