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Honeywell contract expires without new agreement

By Leanne Fuller lfuller@paducahsun.com

As the clock wound down on the contract between Honeywell and United Steelworkers Local 7-669 Friday night - set to expire at midnight - the company and the union were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Honeywell released a statement Friday night that it had been notified that United Steelworkers Local 7-669 "will not allow its membership to vote" on the six-year contract the company proposed Thursday.

"The company is disappointed that the union is not taking advantage of the opportunity to reach a settlement," the statement read. "We remain hopeful that the union will see the extraordinary value in the offer and ratify it. Company negotiators are available to speak with the union at any time."

USW 7-669 spokesman John Paul Smith said it's not that the union won't allow its members to vote on the proposal, but that the members aren't interested in such a vote.

"We've talked to our membership, and it's unanimous that our union body does not want the committee to bring this contract back for a vote," Smith said.

Honeywell's proposed contract included wage increases of 2 percent each year of the contract, the same pension benefits for current union employees and the same health care benefits agreed upon under the previous three-year contract.

"Job security is our No. 1 issue. We also have to find a way that our members are provided with health care they can afford. The company's current proposal would cost our members an additional $8,000 per year," Smith said. "That's something that our members simply can't afford."

Smith said USW 7-669 made a comprehensive counter proposal that it believes would meet members' needs around 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Honeywell's statement outlined what the company deemed "unreasonable demands" made in the union's proposal, including a wage increase of 5 percent each year of a three-year contract that Honeywell said "would be in addition to an immediate 15 percent raise for some of its members," and the immediate addition of 50 new union positions to the plant and a guarantee that staffing levels will never decrease.

Smith said he doesn't think the assertion that the union proposal included a 15 percent raise for some members is correct and that the union is not asking for any new union positions.

"Were not asking for any new union members. We're asking for the same amount of jobs that we were promised would be there at the conclusion of a 14-month lockout," Smith said. "Also, we are not demanding that the level of jobs never goes down. What we're saying is that, unless our jobs are fully staffed, we don't believe the company should be bringing in outside contractors."

Smith said once the contact expired, there are four options moving forward.

"The union can choose to strike, which we have no plan to do at this time; the company can lock us out, which we can't control; there's also the possibility of a contract extension, or we can work without a contract," Smith said.

Smith said he didn't know which course of action would be taken by the union or the company, but that the union is "committed to negotiating for a fair agreement for our members."

Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.

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