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Union workers may strike at Redland Brick

June 17, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

WILLIAMSPORT - With their three-year contract set to expire at midnight today, union workers at Redland Brick Inc. were making plans to picket if plant officials fail to make further concessions.

On Thursday afternoon, members of Teamsters Local 992 voted 88-4 to strike at midnight if necessary, said Glenn Jordan, union shop steward.

A woman who answered the phone at the home of General Manager Douglas Sevick said he was exhausted from a long negotiating session and would not come to the phone.

Employees have been working under a contract that went into effect June 18, 1996, said Jordan.

Plant officials and union negotiators met in a marathon session from 9:30 a.m. Wednesday until 9:30 a.m. Thursday but were unable to reach accord, said Jordan.

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"A lot of guys feel they are being kicked around," said Jordan of the workers.

It was the seventh negotiation meeting held, he said.

Voting to strike was a hard decision for employees and they are willing to return to the negotiating table if Redland officials are, he said.

The brick company at Williamsport employs 105 workers on three shifts and the average employee earns $13.50 an hour, said Jordan.

The last strike at Redland was more than 20 years ago, said Jordan.

The employees are demanding a change in the company's benefit policies.

Currently, Redland allows five workers to be off for vacation at the same time during the months of July and August. During the rest of the year, four workers are permitted to be off at the same time.

The union employees say this policy is inconvenient and makes it difficult for families to plan time off to coincide with school vacations and to enjoy the summer weather, he said.

In his 10 years at the plant, he has never had a summer vacation, said Jordan.

Management rejected a suggestion to close the plant one week during the summer months, he said.

"They said that would be like a ski resort closing up in December," he said.

The plant's busiest time is from June through August, he said.

"I told them ski resorts can't always make snow, but we can always make bricks," said Jordan.

A company plan to expand the five-person vacation maximum to the months of June and September was rejected by workers, he said.

Other employees take issue with the company's medical insurance provisions for retirees, he said.

Workers are eligible to retire at 62 and Redland will continue their insurance for 18 months, he said.

However, their Medicare coverage doesn't go into effect until they are 65, he said.

Morale for some of the workers is low, said Jordan.

"The majority feel they are not valued," he said.

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