Wabtec plant manager urges unionized workers to accept two-tier wage contracts

RELATED TOPICS: SUPPLIERS | LOCOMOTIVES | LABOR RELATIONS
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WABTEC
ERIE, Pa. — Wabtec Freight's plant manager in Lawrence Park, Pa., says unionized workers hold the key to stabilizing work by agreeing to tiered wage structure.

The locomotive plant manager, Wabtec's Rich Krolczyk, sent out a letter to all the unionized workers on April 16, and seen by Trains. This letter indicted that wages are still a key issue but urges the workers to consider future ramifications of trying to keep the wages and wage structure in place as they are.

“If we are going to help the Erie plant stabilize, succeed and survive, change needs to happen. The greatest area of opportunity to position Erie for stability and growth starts with competitive market-based wages,” Krolczyk wrote.

Krolczyk is urging members to accept Wabtec’s proposal of a two-tier wage system to lower wages for new hires to $22 per hour from $35. He says that current wage earners and those recalled from layoffs will not be affected in the change, however.

In his letter, he wrote that such moves in the past have contributed to plant growth in other locations. He cited that another union shop, Wabtec’s Swiger Coil Systems plant in Cleveland grew a headcount of 83 percent and doubled the revenue from that location.

On the other hand, Krolczyk warned that there has been already consideration to move work to other plants by Wabtec if no agreement can be reached. Some of the biggest production aspects to be phased-out in Lawrence Park would be cab assembly and the entire locomotive modernization program, which right now is most of the work being done at the plant.

He said the work can be moved to 80 locations under Wabtec ownership and that the high wages in the Lawrence Park plant make it the least competitive of all of them. He urges the union to conduct a positive dialog to discuss the long-term benefits for all those affected as negotiations continue.

Officials from United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Locals UE 506 and 618 did not respond to Trains' request for comment. Union workers are laboring under a 90-day interim agreement that ends June 3. The top item on their list as things they will not accept in the negotiations is the two-tier wage system.

Wabtec's plant near Erie is a former GE Transportation complex. GE Transportation and Wabtec merged earlier this year.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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