Final Day of Talks Underway for UE Local 506 and GE - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Final Day of Talks Underway for UE Local 506 and GE

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After a marathon bargaining session that lasted from 9:00 AM until 11:00 PM Friday, negotiations between GE Transportation and UE Local 506 resumed Saturday morning at 10:00.

This is the final day of a required "decision bargaining" period initiated in April when the company announced plans to transfer the work of 950 union employees to a new plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

The union and company have traded proposals for weeks on strategies aimed at keeping the work in Erie. GE Transportation Vice President Tina Donikowski confirmed Thursday that a multi-year wage freeze is at the center of what the company believes it needs to save jobs. Sources close to the negotiations say GE is also seeking mandatory overtime and what it calls a "competitive wage." That refers to a lower tier union pay scale for new hires. Union sources say under that plan workers laid off and then called back to the company would return at the new lower wage.  Company sources characterize that differently, saying if UE Local 506 workers were laid off and recalled to a Local 506 job in Erie, they would return at the higher job rate.

According to Union President Scott Duke, in the final week of talks, union members have exercised their right to work 40 hours and not accept overtime. He says that action is in response to the company farming work out to Texas from buildings 12 and 18 while negotiations are still underway. As a result, GE engineers and salaried employees are working overtime on the production line this weekend.

We've also learned that GE is seeking as many as 100 voluntary retirements from the union ranks. The proposal would apply to workers who are at least 60-years old who will have 10 or more years of continuous service by November 30, 2013. A source close to the talks says the intent of the "Voluntary Retirement Incentive," is to lessen the impact of job transfers on employees.

Sources from both sides of the talks say the marathon session produced little progress, but all agreed to keep talking at least through the final day.

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