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United Paperworkers end 16-month work stoppage.

In the forest products industry, one of the most bitter Labor-management confrontations in recent years moved closer to resolution when members of the United Paperworkers International Union voted to terminate their 16-month work stoppages at International Paper Co. mills in Jay, ME, Lock Haven, PA, and DePere, WI. Shortly afterward, International Paper and the union ended a 19-month lockout at a plant in Mobile, AL, by agreeing on a new contract calling for improvements in wages and benefits and for some cost-reducing changes in work rules. An official of Local 14 in Jay said that the decision to end the stoppages came after participating employees were unable to win support from other United Paperworker locals for broader job actions at the company's other mills. Overall, the union held bargaining rights at nearly 100 company facilities. At the end of September, workers at about 20 of the mills were working under extensions of contracts that had expired.

A spokesman for United Paperworkers sai"we need to get our people back in those mills," referring to the fact that decertification elections were pending at Jay and Lock Haven. An election had already been held at DePere, but the ballots had been impounded by the National Labor Relations Board, pending a decision on whether the tally should include ballots cast by the participants in the stoppage. In the past, when a work stoppage was in effect for more than a year, the Board had usually limited the vote to workers on the payroll.

Despite the vote to return to work, the impact on any elections would also be limited by International Paper's announcement that it planned to retain the replacement workers hired during the stoppages at Jay, Lock Haven, and DePere. This meant that participants in the stoppages could only return to work as vacancies occurred among the replacements. At the Mobile plant, the participants were entitled to return to work immediately because the stoppage was the result of a lockout, rather than a strike.

Among the major issues leading to the stoppages were company demands for an end to double-time pay for work on Sundays and holidays and for an end to all premium pay for weekend work until the employee's total hours worked for the entire week exceeded 40. The company also pressed for changes in work rules, including introduction of production work teams that would result in cuts in the number of jobs. International Paper said that the economies were necessary to enable it to compete effectively with nonunion firms. The union's position was that the changes were not necessary and that the company was already earning substantial profits-$133 million in 1985, $305 million in 1986, and $407 million in 1987.

During the stoppages, International Paper instituted some of the economies, which placed the union in a difficult position in current and future bargaining for employees at other locations.
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations
Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Dec 1, 1988
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