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Mack, UAW negotiating

contract ends today

October 01, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - With a labor contract set to expire today, representatives from Mack Trucks and the United Auto Workers union continued negotiating Thursday in an effort to avoid a strike.

Mack Trucks is one of Washington County's largest employers.

"We are engaged in negotiations, and that's pretty much all I can say ... because of the sensitivity of the negotiations," UAW Local 171 president David Perkins said Thursday afternoon. Local 171 represents workers at the Mack Trucks plant north of Hagerstown.

Workers from Mack operations in Allentown, Pa., to Hagerstown have authorized a strike, but the two sides could agree to a contract extension, according to the Associated Press.

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The labor contract set to expire today affects workers in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Georgia, said Bob Martin, Mack senior communications manager. The contract is the main agreement governing the relationship between Mack and the UAW, Martin said.

Martin would not discuss further details of the negotiations.

Negotiations are taking place in King of Prussia, Pa., about 15 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Production workers at Mack, a unit of AB Volvo of Sweden, earn about $23 per hour.

Mack workers have not gone on strike since 1984, according to the Associated Press.

Mack's headquarters are in Allentown, but the company has about 1,400 employees at its powertrain manufacturing plant north of Hagerstown on Pennsylvania Avenue, a company spokesman said in July. Of the employees there, about 1,000 are union members.

Perkins, contacted by phone Thursday, refused to provide further information on the negotiations, including what the sticking points were and whether a strike was imminent.

Tim Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said a strike could be damaging for Mack employees, employers and the county at large.

"There could be a significant impact when you're talking about one of our largest employers in our area," Troxell said.

An Economic Development Commission report earlier this year listed Mack as the sixth largest employer in Washington County. Troxell said Mack is the largest manufacturer in the county.

Should workers strike, employees could lose wages and the plant's operation could be disrupted, Troxell said. "It sort of sets off a chain reaction," he said.

Troxell said Mack has been preparing to begin construction for a new manufacturing facility at the Pennsylvania Avenue plant. A groundbreaking for that construction is scheduled for next Friday, he said.

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