Lynne Baker, part of the United Steel Workers Communications department, emailed me today that Wayzata Investment Partners and the United Steelworkers Local 1189 came to terms regarding the Pope & Talbot Paper Mill that WIP purchased in a bankruptcy sale this June. Here is her press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 20, 2008
Halsey, Oregon—Production and maintenance workers from United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1189 here overwhelmingly ratified a new six-year agreement with Cascade Pacific Pulp LLC on Oct. 16 that covers 95 workers. The contract will expire Oct. 31, 2014.
“We were able to get a contract because of the solidarity of our membership, our community allies, and USW brothers and sisters from Canada and Minnesota,” Jim Gourley, Local 1189 financial secretary, said. “They supported us in our rallies at Wayzata headquarters in Minnesota and at the plant gate.”
The union was successful in regaining main provisions of their former contract with Pope & Talbot at the site. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last year and the operations were purchased by Wayzata Investment Partners, a specialist in private equity and hedge funds, for $31.15 million.
“It’s been a very hard struggle to work with absentee owners,” Leon Harlson, president of Local 1189, said. “We were able to put enough pressure on Wayzata to get them to bargain with us. The contract we obtained addresses most of our issues.”
One of the most important provisions the union obtained is successorship. If Wayzata sells the pulp mill in the future, the new owner would have to abide by the existing union contract for the term of the agreement, and workers would get to keep their jobs. Since there was not a successorship clause in the old Pope & Talbot contract, the workers lost their jobs and had to reapply for them under the terms offered by the new owner.
Workers will receive a minimum 12 percent wage increase immediately upon ratification and will be paid the difference between their old wage rate and the new one for the five months they were without a contract. On November 1 in 2009 and 2010 they will receive a 2 percent general wage increase. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 on November 1 their wage increase will be based on the average of wage increases negotiated at other Pacific coast mills.
The company agreed to pay a 50-cent per hour shift differential for the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift after ratification instead of its original proposal to start payment in 2009. An additional 25-cents per hour will be added Nov. 1, 2010 instead of a year later. The shift to earlier payment is significant because this provision affects about 75 percent of the membership.
Prior to the new agreement, workers had to pay 50 percent of their health care premiums. In the new agreement, workers will immediately pay 20 percent of the cost. This increases to 22 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in 2012.
Local 1189 was able to retrieve all the contract language under the old contract with Pope & Talbot except for a few minor modifications. Those with 15 years or more of service under Pope & Talbot and Cascade Pacific will automatically get five weeks of vacation without having to re-earn it under the new owner. Before the contract, workers were not paid if they were overlooked for overtime because managers did not follow seniority. If a manager disregards seniority now when assigning overtime, the overlooked person who should have been assigned it will get paid as if the manager had not messed up.
The defined benefit pension workers had under Pope & Talbot will be replaced by a USW 401(k) plan. Cascade Pacific will match up to 6 percent of a worker’s contribution beginning Nov. 1, 2008. This will increase to a 7 percent match on Nov. 1, 2011 and an 8 percent match on Nov. 1, 2012.
The USW represents 130,000 workers in the pulp, paper and forestry industry. It is the largest industrial union in North America, representing more than 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean and Aruba.
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