Union leaders hope to negotiate better treatment for the entry-level workers.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WARREN -- Lower-wage workers at the General Electric Ohio Lamp Plant will get to keep their jobs, now that fellow union members have voted to preserve but modify a contract clause allowing entry-level employees at the facility.
Members of Local 722 of the International Union of Electrical Workers followed the recommendations of their union leadership when they agreed Tuesday to keep the jobs of between 40 and 50 entry-level co-workers.
Union president Dennis Wildman Sr. said the vote was split about 2 to 1, with about 200 of the union's 470 eligible members participating.
"I'm pretty happy," Wildman said. "I didn't want to see us losing jobs."
Job security issue: Some members proposed eliminating the entry-level tier at the Warren plant as a way to improve job security for regular wage employees with more seniority.
More than 100 employees have been laid off at the plant in the past year and some regular wage workers were forced to bump down to the entry-level class.
Entry-level workers, who earn $8.15 an hour compared with the regular-wage employees' range of $18 to $25 an hour, also do not have the same seniority and overtime privileges. They do, however, receive full benefits.
Union leaders opposed eliminating the job classification, proposing instead that the clause allowing the low-wage workers be revised to treat entry-level employees more fairly. They also want to make it optional for regular wage employees to either take a layoff or be bumped to a lower wage scale.
Modifications to come: Wildman said union leaders will begin meeting with union members one-on-one to see what additions they want to make to the entry-level employee clause. When they've come up with a union proposal that the company accepts, the revised agreement will go back to the membership for a vote.
GE has three plants in the Mahoning Valley: the Warren plant, which has 470 employees now working and manufactures specialty lights; the Niles plant, with 250 workers who make glass; and the Austintown plant, with about 200 employees who make light-bulb coils.