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Settlements at General Electric.

Settlements at General Electric

Negotiators for the General Electric Co. and its two major unions signed new 3-year collective bargaining agreements, covering about 44,000 workers, that are expected to set a pattern for an additional 21,000 employees represented by 10 other unions who bargain with GE. The new pacts cover some 37,000 workers represented by the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers (IUE) and 6,700 workers represented by the United Electrical Workers of America (UE). The major issues in dispute reportedly were health care, job security, wages, and pensions. (The Coorindated Bargaining Committee of General Electric and Westinghouse Unions coordinates the bargaining activities of the 14 unions at GE. The IUE and UE historically have negotiated master contracts covering their GE members nationwide, and the 10 other unions traditionally have negotiated separate agreements at the local level that are patterned after the master contracts.)

Terms of the new contracts call for wage increases of 3.5 percent retroactive to July 1, 1991, and 2.25 percent on June 29, 1992, and June 28, 1993. In addition, employees in skilled job classifications paying more than $12.40 an hour would receive special wage adjustments that reportedly average one-half percent. (At the expiration of the prior contract, the average hourly rate for IUE-represented workers reportedly was $13.33.)

Several changes were made in the health care area. Enhancements in the health care plan included coverage for nurse midwife obstetrical services, chiropractic services, and preventative procedures such as Pap tests, mammograms, and colon/rectal and prostate cancer screening; a $250,000 increase (to $1 million) in the major medical lifetime maximum; a new mail-order prescription drug plan, with an employee copayment per prescription of $4 for generic drugs and $11 for brandname drugs; improvements in benefits for dental and vision care; the elimination of the mandatory second opinion for surgical procedures; improved benefits covering mental health and substance abuse; and the establishment of an optional long-term care insurance program. Changes in health-care cost containment measures included a $100 increase in the employee annual contribution for single coverage; a $50 increase (to $250) in the employee annual contribution for dependent coverage, regardless of the number of dependents; a $100 increase (to $1,100 to $2,350, depending on the employe's pay bracket) in the maximum "out-of-pocket" costs; and the establishment of a weekly payment for employees whose working spouses decline coverage under their employer's health care plans, set at $5 if the spouse earns more than $15,000 a year and $10 if the spouse earns more than $21,000 a year.

Other terms include a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in December 1991 equal to 1 cent an hour for each 0.15-percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), followed by semiannual COLA payments in 1992 and 1993 equal to 1 cent an hour for each 0.125-percent increase in the CPI-w (the first 3.5 cents an hour in the COLA payments are diverted to help offset increases in health care costs); $19.50 to $27 (previously, $18 to $25) monthly pension rate per year of service retroactive to July 1, 1991, increasing to $21 to $29 effective January 1, 1993; an increase in the two special early retirement supplements that continue until the employee reaches age 62 (for 25-year employees affected by permanent job loss), from $9 a month for each year of credited service to $10 a month and from $200 a month to $225 a month; a new plant closing pension option that provides lifetime income for employees between ages 50 and 59 who are adversely affected by plant closures; and enhanced job and income security, including an agreement to negotiate with local union representatives before subcontracting work, and expansion of the preferential rehiring procedures that allow laid-off workers to apply for jobs for up to 3 years at all of GE's domestic plants.
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Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:OECD Employment Outlook: July, 1991.
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