Bell, Manufacturing Workers Continue Contract Negotiations

 - September 2, 2013, 3:40 AM

Bell Helicopter and United Auto Workers Union (UAW) Local 218 continue their bargaining sessions in the wake of the union’s overwhelming rejection of the company’s latest contract proposal covering 2,500 production and manufacturing workers in the Fort Worth, Texas area.

On June 9, 85 percent of Local 218 members voted to reject the company’s proposed contract, but elected not to strike while further negotiations continued between the company and the union. The move is in stark contrast to Local 218’s decision to strike for five weeks in 2009, largely over health-care costs, a move that garnered the union only minimal gain. Both the union and the company appear to have made concessions since bargaining resumed in July, after the initial contract was voted down.

A Bell spokesman told AIN, “Bell Helicopter and the bargaining committee from UAW Local 218 last met on August 1. To date, the union has not agreed to any future meetings, while the company stands ready to meet at any time. The parties have met only three times since the June 9 vote–all based on the union’s availability.” The spokesman continued, “On July 30 the company presented the union with a new offer in which it withdrew 54 of its proposals, including one related to consolidating job classifications. The company made these concessions–all of which have significant cost and efficiency impacts that adversely affect Bell Helicopter’s competitive position–in a good-faith effort to reach a contract settlement as soon as possible. The new offer, along with a comparison table and set of Q&A, was posted online so that employees and their families could review it and draw their own conclusions. Bell Helicopter firmly believes the employees represented by UAW Local 218 should have an opportunity to have their voices heard by voting on this contract.”

While continuing to bargain, Local 218 said it is filing unfair labor practices charges against Bell with the National Labor Relations Board because the company “would not change its position on health care, Cola (cost of living adjustments), overtime and pensions. The company continues to refuse to bargain these issues and that is an unfair labor practice.”

According to Local 218, the company and the union reviewed all open proposals between the parties and reached tentative agreements on 10 proposals (eight union and two company). The union withdrew nine proposals, but eight of its proposals remain open. Bell withdrew 54 proposals, but 75 remain open.