Master Agreement Provides Future Security
TORONTO, ON and PITTSBURGH, PA, Feb. 18, 2014 /CNW/ - United Steelworkers (USW) members at four paper mill sites in Calhoun, Tenn., Catawba, SC, Coosa Pines, Ala., and Augusta, Ga., overwhelmingly ratified by a 4-1 margin a master agreement Friday with Resolute Forest Products, a producer of newsprint and specialty and coated paper.
The five-year master agreement covers 1,500 members in seven USW local unions. It also impacts mill workers who are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada (UA).
"I congratulate our members, the local union leadership and our International staff," said Leo W. Gerard, USW International President. "Their solidarity and leadership made for strong and effective bargaining. This agreement illustrates the progress of strategic bargaining in our paper sector."
"We've transitioned from bargaining economic and benefit items table-to-table 10 years ago to strategic coordinated bargaining," said Gerard. "Now our local unions work together in councils to create bargaining proposals on main issues like wages and benefits, then sit in on the talks with the company and caucus with those doing the actual negotiating.
"This process has improved the communication between members, local unions and the International, resulting in agreements that have pushed our bargaining forward and enabled the U.S. paper industry to thrive in a competitive global market."
The contract improves wages in each of the five years of the master agreement, secures high quality health care and ensures the Resolute mills continue to be among the most efficient plants in the world.
"We have made a lot of progress since the bankruptcy, and this deal improves the future security of USW jobs in the United States," said USW International Vice President Jon Geenen, who oversees the union's paper sector. "During previous negotiations, our members made strategic decisions that are paying off and paving the way for a stronger future."
This second-generation master agreement builds upon the first one negotiated four years ago when AbitibiBowater Inc. was undergoing bankruptcy. AbitibiBowater now does business as Resolute Forest Products. The USW negotiated the first master agreement as part of a strategy to enable Resolute to successfully complete its reorganization and emerge from creditor protection under the Companies' Creditors Protection Act in Canada and chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Dec. 9, 2010.
"The USW played a key leadership role in establishing the collective bargaining framework that was essential for the company to emerge from bankruptcy," Geenen said. "This contract continues to provide long-term security for our members, retirees, the communities and the company as it evolves into a world-class papermaker with a promising future in spite of continued tough market conditions and shrinking markets."
The USW represents about 120,000 paper workers in the U.S., and is the largest industrial union in North America. It has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. The union represents workers employed in paper and forestry, metals, rubber, chemicals, energy, glass, health care and the service sector.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)