Tannery workers to return

June 10, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Striking employees of Garden State Tanning Inc. are to return to work today now that the union has ratified a new three-year contract.

Members of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Workers voted Monday to approve the latest contract offer from management, said Harold Bock, union vice president.

The 750 union workers had been on strike since June 1, immediately after a midnight deadline passed.

Bock declined to give the vote count, but said a substantial number voted in favor of the contract.

Management made concessions in all three areas the union was concerned about: Seniority, health insurance and pay, Bock said.

"The workers, through their solidarity, were able to hold onto and in fact improve upon some of the things they had," he said.


Bock called the outcome a victory for the union.

Company President and Chief Operating Officer Mark D. Lecher declined to comment on Bock's characterization, but he said he was pleased with the outcome.

"I'm glad we were able to come to an agreement that got everything resolved," Lecher said.

During the strike, the company sent its automotive leather manufacturing work to other plants so it did not miss any deadlines, he said.

In the area of seniority, the company agreed to continue the practice of choosing lead positions based on seniority, he said.

Management also made concessions on wages, giving pay raises to more job classifications, he said.

For health insurance, employees will be able to chose between keeping their current plan or switching to a managed-care plan that costs roughly the same, he said.

The company had wanted to convert everyone to managed care, but workers who live in Pennsylvania and West Virginia were concerned about doctor availability, he said.

Lecher declined to discuss the details of the contract.

Union members closed down their picket lines after the contract was ratified Monday. They will return to work with first shift today, Bock said.

Talks between union and management broke down late last month.

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone ordered both sides back to the bargaining table last week.

Boone also signed a temporary restraining order against the pickets at the request of the company.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department reported no arrests on the picket lines.

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