Union leadership at General Electric’s Erie plant has called for a strike vote for Saturday which could set the stage for a possible walkout if talks stall. Negotiators report scant progress in talks between the General Electric union workers and Wabtec, the Pittsburgh based company looking to buy the Erie operations. That deal could close as early as Monday and Wabtec has said the existing contract would be voided at time of sale.
UE locals 506, 618 and the National union have negotiated this week with Wabtec for a replacement contract but on social media the unions say Wabtec wants large concessions.
There are signs that the unions want to have a show of strength to prove to the new company they are serious. They have collected letters of support from other unions working with Wabtec. Burn barrels have been delivered to the U.E. 506 headquarters as well. Burn barrels are symbols of work outages in this part of the country since workers will stand outside company gates picketing often in cold weather.
A vote by workers to authorize leadership to call a strike Saturday would be another step in that campaign.
Talks continue Wednesday. Look for updates here and on the newscasts of JET 24 Action News and Fox 66.
Wabtec’s response is as follows:
“We are disappointed with the UE 506 and 618’s response to our proposed initial terms and conditions in Erie, which will be implemented at the closing of our transaction with GE Transportation. These include:
• Wabtec will continue to offer a best-in-class wage and benefits package across the Erie area (which maintains a legacy average wage rate of $35 per hour).
• Wabtec will continue to offer a competitive 401K plan, comprehensive medical, dental and vision package, and accrued personal paid time off – comparable to what UE employees have today.
• All current GE employees will continue to earn their existing salary or wage rate.
Wabtec has explained that the Company is interested in improving manufacturing operations at the Erie plant. The Company has proposed certain work rules changes that are in line with the terms that have been in use for years by Wabtec at its facility in Wilmerding, PA, where employees are also represented by the UE.
Erie is GE Transportation’s least competitive site and it has been for years. GE and Wabtec been very transparent with the UE on the need to get cost competitive.
As of today, every GE Transportation union including the IBEW, IUE, IFPTE, and EIAGPPE has agreed to new collective bargaining agreements based upon the proposed terms and conditions and are eager to work with us to position their membership for success – except the UE.
We maintain committed to continuing discussions with the UE in Erie and hope they will reconsider for the benefit of the plant, its membership and the community.”
• Wabtec spokesperson