Wabtec Erie Workers to Vote on Contract

Union workers at the Wabetec plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, have reached a tentative four-year contract agreement to end a dispute that had triggered a nine-day strike in March.

The pact will considered by members of United Electrical, Machine and Radio Workers of America in a June 12 vote. The union represents 1,700 members in two locals in the Erie area.

The workers are employed at the former General Electric locomotive assembly plant in Lawrence Park.

Since March the two sides have engaged in 90 days of mediated bargaining and two days of working.

News reports indicate that both sides made concessions, but the union won a promise of job security, including Wabtec’s agreement to add 100 jobs by the end of the contract.

Wabtec, based in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilmerding, agreed to pay existing employees an average of $35 an hour, but demanded that new hires be paid an average of $22 an hour.

Eventually the two sides agreed that new employees would be paid less but rise to the full union wage scale over a 10-year period.

The company also agreed that overtime would be voluntary and not mandatory.

During the negotiations, Wabtec had described Erie as the least competitive of its 80 plants and threatened to move a substantial amount of work out of Erie.

Even before Wabtec acquired the Erie plant earlier this year its previous owner GE had long been shifting work to a newer and non-union plant in Fort Worth, Texas, amid a challenging market for new locomotives.

GE had at one point announced that it would end locomotive production in Erie, although it said it continue to have a ongoing although largely unspecified role.

The new contract, if it’s ratified, will apparently allay the fears that work will be moved away from Erie.

Wabtec has talked about adding new work and making investments in the Erie plant.

Greg Sbrocco, Wabtec’s senior vice president of global operations, described the contract agreement as “a good first step at driving competitiveness at the Erie plant.”

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