This week we filed a petition with the NLRB for an election to have 78 bridge tenders on the west coast of Florida join our Local Union. We have been working on this campaign for several months with Kathy Smith doing most of the ground work. Kathy is a member of Local 824 and is a Lead Organizer for the IBEW. The Voluntary Organizing Committee within the bridge tender group have done an awesome job as well. As you may remember, this group contacted us and wanted our assistance in forming a voice for their work place. Hopefully, we will have good news when the election takes place. I want to personally thank Kathy for her efforts in this campaign so far. Dan Wagner, Michelle Agne, Jim Emminger, Chris Regalado and Jason Smith also spoke with employees in the beginning of the campaign.
Our Local Union, through our attorney, has also filed paperwork in Federal Court during the last month to have the Arbitrator’s reversal of his original award overturned in the bumping arbitration that involved the Comm Techs. We have no further news at this time but will report when we do. The award from arbitration that was heard on September 7th is due on December 24th. That arbitration was from a termination in Northwestern Division. Our next arbitration is scheduled for next week and involves a termination from Eastern Division. We just received a panel of arbitrators to select for the next arbitration, which is a termination from the FSC. We have another arbitration coming after that for a termination in Tampa and then we will have 2 arbitrations on contractual language. One for an Article XI (bumping) violation and another for Article XIV (Promo/Reclass) language. There are several more termination grievances that we are waiting for third step meetings that likely will be arbitrated as well.
The Promo/Reclass language that the Union believes the Company violated comes down to the Company stating that depending on what job titles you have held in the past will decide if you have qualifications to have the Company offer you a promotion. Our language states that ability and qualifications being equal, seniority shall prevail. I’m not going to get into the details of the argument that the Union will be using, but we definitely don't believe in a “family tree” as a deciding factor in a members’ qualifications.
Also involving our Promo/Reclass language, we believe the Company violated that language with the filling of the Account Associate positions in the E-Center. To begin with, the Company excluded qualified senior candidates from several different classifications and filled some of the positions incorrectly. As a result of the Union researching who bid on these positions, senior members who were originally excluded were tested and offered these positions. When that happened, 2 junior members who were already in training were notified this week that they would be returning to their former positions on Monday. The Union tried to have the Company absorb these 2 members in the E-Center but we were unsuccessful. There is one other senior member, who the Union believes should have been offered the position as well, that wasn't offered due to the job titles previously held. A grievances will be filled on that next week.
As we enter the 6th month of bargaining, there is not much new to report. Over the last couple of weeks the Company has presented several proposals on wages and the latest proposal was 1.75, 1.75, 1.75 and 1.75 of 1.5, 1.5, 1.5 with the Union countering with 4.5, 4, 4 and 4 each of the 4 years. The Union also presented a counter to the Company’s Pension proposal that was rejected a day later. We have also went back and forth with proposals and counter proposals on our short-term disability benefits but again, nothing is resolved with this issue yet either. We are close to having resolution on our VEBA language that would allow for an increase in retiree medical benefits for new hires. Again several proposals have been exchanged and we are waiting on the Company’s response to our last proposal. Your bargaining committee presented a new healthcare proposal that will save the Company money at the same time continue the current level of benefits we have now. Yesterday, the Company countered our healthcare proposal and we are in the process of reviewing that counter. I do want to point out that last month I reported that Local 89 in Washington State had ratified an agreement that included no premiums being paid by their membership for their medical benefits. We have looked at their agreement and what was agreed to is that there would be no premiums paid by their membership for the 1st year of the contract only. In addition to the proposals above, your committee is continuing to request additional information relating to the Pension Plan to realize the total savings to the Company from their Pension proposal. Your committee believes that there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the members receive a fair and equitable agreement for the next 4 years. As there is progress made at the bargaining table, updates will be emailed and placed on our website.
On behalf of the Officers and staff, we hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.