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Capitol Cement workers return to work

April 19, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The decision by the 155 union workers at Capitol Cement to return to work today is not intended to mean that all issues between the company and workers have been resolved, a union official said Thursday.

"This doesn't mean anything's settled. I think the strike accomplished a lot," said Chris Perkins, president of Local D-208 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

Perkins said the two sides were "still as far apart" as they were before the walkout, which started last Wednesday.

Workers at the cement plant on Queen Street Extended were planning to make an "unconditional return" to the plant at 8 a.m. today, Perkins said.

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An unconditional return prohibits the plant from certain practices, such as accepting only some of the workers back, Perkins said.

Local union officials and company officials will continue to negotiate over issues they were concerned about, Perkins said Thursday.

Company spokesman Bruce Jolly agreed with Perkins' description of the "unconditional return."

"We welcome them all back," said Jolly.

Perkins said workers agreed to return to work after national union officials suggested that the strike be ended.

Raleigh Eversole III, international representative of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, said national union officials suggested workers return to their jobs because they had planned to have only a short walkout.

One of the main purposes behind the strike was to show company officials that all the union workers were unified in their resolve, Eversole said.

The contract between workers and the company expired May 1 of last year, and since then, the union and company officials have been operating on a month-by-month agreement, Eversole said.

Workers have been unhappy about "outsourcing" practices, which is the use of nonunion, outside contractors at the plant, said Eversole. Workers were also dissatisfied about decreased level of medical benefits and issues related to their pension, Eversole said.

The company's last offer, made when workers decided not to extend their last monthly agreement March 31, remained on the table, Jolly said.

The offer includes a 3 percent pay raise upon ratification, a 2 percent pay raise in May and a 2 percent pay raise in May of next year, Jolly said.

The offer requires medical insurance co-payments for workers to increase from $10 to $15, an issue workers have complained about.

Eversole said he expects the two sides to meet again soon and added that a federal mediator will be present for the meeting in an attempt to bring about an agreement.

Eversole thanked the community for its support of striking workers. He said local residents and members of other unions in the area stopped by to offer workers food, drinks and support.

Eversole said he was happy about the support because he did not know how the community would react to the walkout.

"We don't have too many of them around here," said Eversole.

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