Glass plant workers make concessions to save jobs

In an effort to keep jobs at The Glass Group Inc.'s Millville facility, Local 219 of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers Union has made some concessions in its contract with the company, said Les Orange, Local 219 president.

"We are very grateful to the union and the employees for making the concessions that they did, even though it was not what we felt we needed and asked for," said Leonard Nave, GGI vice chairman and general counsel.

"Based on the agreement with the union, we will do everything in our power to keep the business in Millville," Nave said.

The company had requested $3.75 in hourly reductions on top of the $1.25 per hour cuts made in 2003.

"Before we discussed concessions on Friday, we wanted to make sure pension issues would not be compromised, and that was resolved," Orange said.

The agreement that is slated to be signed this week by the union and company is a supplement to the existing contract that expires in May 2006, Nave said.

The three major changes agreed to by the union, according to Orange, are the following:

Employees will take one week's vacation during the July shutdown and another one at the December shutdown.

Double-time pay after 12 consecutive hours will be eliminated, with workers being paid time-and-a-half after 8 hours.

New hires will be paid at a reduced rate, $3 below the current rate, but with an option to move up into skilled positions.

Orange said that Local 7, which represents the machine operators, agreed to a reduction of $1 below the current rate.

Foreign competition in the glass business has been cited repeatedly as having a negative impact on American glass plant workers.

"These free trade acts that Congress passes aren't free for the American workers," Orange said. "We have definitely been harmed by foreign competition."

Pointing to the concessions made by the union, Orange said, "We have worked with the company twice on them because we want to show the company that we care about the plant and our jobs."

Local 219 represents approximately 360 Glass Group production and maintenance employees, according to Orange.

Stressing the importance of continuing to look for cost-saving measures, Nave said: "We have asked the union officials to join in meeting with the governor or his designee to search for ways to see if there are incentives that the state could help us with in order to help make the plant more productive. The state gives incentives for new jobs. We feel the state should also provide incentives for retaining jobs."

Nave said that he also plans to arrange a meeting with the city to see what kind of support or assistance the city might be able to provide.

Pleased that an agreement has been reached, Donald Ayres, Millville economic development director, said: "We have met several times with the Glass Group management team, and we are working on several initiatives with them to see if there are ways that we could help in making the operation more cost-effective. We will continue to do this.

"I'm sure that Mayor (Jim) Quinn would be willing to arrange a meeting with the top state government officials to see if there are incentives that can be provided to the company," Ayres added.

"The retention of these jobs for local residents is our primary concern," Ayres emphasized.

A letter dated Feb. 5 from Ken Rock, GGI chairman and chief executive officer, to the union members indicated the possibility that if costs are not cut back to the level requested, production might have to be moved to a more competitive location.

GGI makes products for the cosmetic and health-care industries, plus specialty products ranging from steak sauce containers to liquor decanters

600450 Glass plant workers make concessions to save jobs
Date: 18 February 2004

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