Erie, PA - A top GE Transportation official is saying that there needs to be meaningful progress at the bargaining table for GE to extend talks past the Saturday deadline. Vice President Tina Donikowski says it will take change on everyone's part, union and management, to keep manufacturing jobs here. "What drove success in the past won't be good enough for the future," said Donikowski.
Donikowski is VP of GE Transportation's locomotive, marine, stationary power & drill and energy storage units. She built a 36-year career at the company after starting as a stenographer in 1977. She says the competition from Caterpillar is fierce and GE and its workforce need to be able to match that.
With her Erie history, we asked how difficult it is to think of 1,000 jobs leaving town. "I want to see our community thrive...and be a place that people want to come to live," said Donikowski. "Erie is a wonderful place, that means we need to have these great jobs remain here. We need to change, we need to remain competitive."
So far the company and UE 506 have not been able to come to terms on the changes necessary to keep the work here. Donikowski confirmed that a wage freeze is one key item the company is seeking at the bargaining table.
Meantime, UE 506 spent the day briefing the union membership on the status of the talks. The union and company have been in what they characterize as intense talks since April, when GE first announced its intentions to send 950 manufacturing jobs to the company's new facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Nothing was up for a vote at today's meetings.
The union says it has proof now that the Erie plant is more efficient than the Texas plant. That proof came in a report from a forensic financial analyst hired by the union. Donikowski called the data misleading.
The union believes there are items to negotiate and ways to stay competitive without re-opening the current labor agreement, which expires in two years.