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Redland talks hit impasse

August 17, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY and KIMBERLY YAKOWSKIs

WILLIAMSPORT - Negotiations between Redland Brick Co. and Teamsters Local 992 have stalled, according to company and union officials.

As the strike at the brick plant enters its ninth week, the two sides appear no closer to a settlement, with officials from the union and company disagreeing on major issues.

Glenn Jordan, the Teamsters shop steward, said the two sides failed to reach agreement Friday because of provisions concerning pay and replacement workers.

Jordan said the new contract would give seniority to replacement workers hired since the strike.

"There's no way we're going back there with them having more seniority than us," he said.

James P. Vinke, Redland's president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday that negotiators failed to reach an agreement on Friday but no formal proposal was offered.

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In a written response to questions from The Herald-Mail, Vinke said replacement workers will not be dismissed or assigned to different positions when union workers return.

He said the union workers will have preference in vacation choices based on their seniority.

"Replacement workers will be treated as new employees concerning vacation and pay rates," he said.

Jordan said the move would displace the most recently hired union workers, who would be called to work on an as-needed basis.

"The union members have voted three times to reject company offers that their own bargaining committee recommended," Vinke said in his statement.

Jordan said the gulf between the two sides has widened.

A few workers had considered crossing the picket line but reconsidered after hearing about the latest proposal, Jordan said.

The plant's kilns were shut down after the workers walked out June 18 and no new bricks were manufactured. Deliveries of stock were made.

The company began hiring replacement workers about two weeks ago after strikers refused to accept a previous contract offer. Vinke has said the plant was losing money as a result of the strike and needed to make bricks to keep customers.

Vinke said the company has hired about 25 permanent replacement workers and expects to have between 30 and 40 permanent replacements by the end of the week, he said.

The target for the initial production phase is about 47 workers, he said.

Jordan said the strikers are disheartened by company offers. He estimated that three-quarters of the 108 union workers have taken jobs elsewhere but are willing to return to Redland if things are ironed out.

"They're frustrated. They want to get their lives back on track. The strike is hurting everyone," he said.

"I wish we had voted to accept the contract back in June - but I'll never cross the picket line," Jordan said.

"If we stick together we'll get through this."

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