There is still no agreement to save 950 jobs at General Electric in Erie. The deadline for decision bargaining passed at midnight Saturday and no plans were announced to extend talks. But the dialogue may not be over. The lead negotiators for each side have agreed to speak on Monday.
Both sides are expressing disappointment that they could not reach agreement on a plan to preserve Erie jobs and position the local plant for the future. Negotiators spent 28 hours in talks Friday and Saturday, before walking away from the table at 11:57 PM Saturday.
In written statements both sides are clearly considering what the next moves should be.
UE 506 President Scott Duke said, "Even though Saturday night we were not able to reach agreement, our union remains committed to saving the 950 jobs which GE is proposing to move to Texas. For our part, while we evaluate further legal and or labor actions, and while GE considers its decision to go forward with the transfer of jobs, the union intends to keep the lines of communications open with GE."
Duke went on to say that even though the focus was on saving jobs, the union placed on the table $26 million in savings derived from work rules changes and efficiency gains.
The statement from GE transportation CEO, Lorenzo Simonelli expressed disappointment too. "Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement and final proposals were far apart in savings," said Simonelli. "We will consider the situation and provide further information in the coming days."
There has been no formal move to resume negotiations but according to Duke, "Before leaving the table on Saturday night GE's lead negotiator and I agreed to speak on Monday."
The full text of each side's statements are attached below.
Statement from UE Local 506 President Scott Duke
Even though Saturday night we were not able to reach an agreement, our union remains committed to saving the 950 jobs which GE is proposing to move to Texas. Before leaving the bargaining table Sunday night GE's lead negotiator and I agreed to speak on Monday. For our part, while we evaluate further legal and/or labor actions, and while GE considers its decision to go forward with the transfer of jobs, the union intends to keep the lines of communications open with GE. Also, my team wants to recognize the professionalism of the GE bargaining team during this challenging process.
Two years ago we negotiated an agreement with GE that provided for modest wage increases in exchange for deep and painful cuts to our health care and pensions. The central thrust of GE's position in this round of bargaining was to undo that deal only to the extent it benefited GE on the wage side, while a typical union family is now paying thousands more a year in health care costs. Even though our primary focus was on saving jobs, we placed on the table $26 million in savings derived from work rules changes and efficiency gains.
We helped GE make billions last year and we are on track to do the same this year only to find our work ethic and productivity under attack. The statements made early on about our time on product by management appear to us to have been calculated to poison the well. The comments were untrue and disturbing to the fine men and women I represent. Likewise, comments of late about our willingness to negotiate in earnest by certain community leaders were decidedly unproductive.
As we move forward we remain convinced that GE management and Erie labor working together are the most formidable locomotive production team on the planet capable of outperforming all our competitors.
STATEMENT FROM GE TRANSPORTATION AND CEO LORENZO SIMONELLI
"The decision bargaining deadline has expired, and the parties did not reach an agreement. We will consider the situation and provide further information in the coming days.
We've made several alternative proposals to the union – ones that would preserve jobs while positioning us to be more competitive in the future. The Company's most recent offer would have:
Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement and final proposals were far apart in savings. The company disagrees with the calculations presented by the union's last proposal, which failed to address long term competitiveness of the Erie facility.
We're disappointed with the outcome, but are confident we made every effort to bargain in good faith and achieve an agreement.
We remain proud that GE offers high-quality jobs in Erie with strong wages and good benefits. In Erie, the average GE manufacturing employee compensation, with benefits, is double the median income for Pennsylvania.
However, all of us must recognize that our business climate has changed and we must adapt. When faced with this dynamic in other cities, GE and unions have partnered with great success. We were obviously hoping to do the same here. Despite our inability to do so, we will continue to work professionally and in good faith with the union concerning the employees they represent here in Erie."
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