There are new developments in the bargaining aimed at stopping the transfer of 950 manufacturing jobs from Erie GE to the company's new facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The union now says, they've crunched the numbers and the Erie plant is at least twice as efficient, as the plant in Fort Worth.
The union hired a forensic financial expert to analyze the data. Jim Schaffner of Schaffner Knight Minnaugh & Company said in a union statement, "...as of April, the Fort Worth plant takes substantially more labor hours to build a locomotive than it does in the Erie plant." With respect to locomotive production, Schaffner concluded, "The Erie plant's production is twice that of the Fort Worth facility at April 30, 2012."
According to the union statement, Shaffner's analysis also found Erie more efficient in building motorized wheels for off highway vehicles (OHV) and he determined that shifting that work to Texas wouldn't create significant improvements in profits for 5 to10 years.
In the written statement Union President Scott Duke said, "Our union is doing something right. We managed to help this company make over a billion dollars in profits last year and get off to a very strong 2013. Give us a chance and we will outperform Caterpillar every day of the week as we always have."
When GE first announced plans to shift 950 jobs to Texas the company claimed operations at the plant there are 20% more efficient than Erie. Spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson issued a written response to the union's latest salvo saying, "GE does not agree with the union's conclusion, as it is based on performance from January - April, when Fort Worth was in its early ramp-up phase. Our projections stated that Fort Worth's efficiency would surpass Erie's in May - which it did."
The two sides spent the entire day Wednesday at the bargaining table. The next talks are set for Friday at 9:00 AM. UE 506 members will meet for briefings in three shifts on Thursday at their union hall in Lawrence Park. They say no union votes are scheduled.
Without an extension, the talks will expire on Saturday June 22 at midnight. GE's latest comments may signal a willingness to keep talking. "GE remains committed to a reasonable dialogue with the union based on facts in order to arrive at a solution that is best for our employees, the Erie community and the long term health of the business. We have presented these facts time and again to the union and are hopeful for continued dialogue with them. Our goal from the beginning has been to make decisions that enable us to be competitive in the marketplace."