Hytek workers OK new, improved contract

The following is crossposted from IAM 751 blog:

KENT (Mar. 4, 2013) — Machinists Union members at Hytek Finishes in Kent have narrowly approved a new improved four-year contract.

The Machinists approved the contract with a 52-percent “yes” vote on Thursday, Feb. 28, less than a week after they had voted by a nearly 3-to-1 margin to reject the company’s previous contract offer and authorize a strike. The second contract needed only a simple majority for approval.

The second contract provides greater flexibility for members to divert money into a health savings account to help pay for the company’s high-cost health care plan, said Kevin Cummings, the union’s lead negotiator.

It also retains one of the strongest portions of the original offer: a new wage schedule that raises minimum pay for Hytek workers and provides them a clear path for future raises and promotions.

That was another priority for members during negotiations, Cummings said, and it will raise the pay of some members by as much as $3 an hour.

“The new contract is a step in the right direction, and it lays a foundation for the future for workers at Hytek,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751.

District  751 represents more than 180 hourly workers at Hytek, who do metal coating and finishing work on aircraft parts. They provide parts for all of the Boeing Co.’s widebody jets — the 787, 747-8, 777 and 767 — and for the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The work done at Hytek is highly specialized, so a strike would have had a wide ripple effect, Cummings said. “There are only five companies in the world certified to do this kind of work, and fewer still in the United States.”

The contract ratified by members Thursday was the result of conversations between Wroblewski and Hytek President Clif Johnson. The two spoke several times following Saturday’s vote by union members to reject the first contract, and worked out the revised offer.

Under the contract, Machinists at Hytek will get:

  • Raises of 3 percent in each of the first two years of the contract, 2.5 percent in the third year and 3 percent in the fourth year;
  • A $1,000 ratification bonus for all workers on the payroll prior to September 2011 (everyone hired since then gets a bonus of $550); with the option of putting the ratification bonuses into flexible health spending accounts to help defray future medical costs;
  • A new system of job classification and labor grades that establishes minimum pay levels and ensures automatic pay increases after three years; and
  • Increased paid time off – as much as 80 hours a year, depending on seniority.

The Machinists at Hytek had voted Feb. 23 to reject an initial contract offer and authorize a strike. While Wroblewski and Johnson were holding their discussions, the union had gone ahead with plans for a strike, including picket training and renting a strike headquarters.

Wroblewski thanked Cummings and the rest of the union negotiating team for their efforts over nearly 18 months of often-contentious contract talks.

These negotiations were a fight from the beginning,” he said. “We didn’t get all we wanted in this contract, but in the end, we got a deal that satisfied the majority of our members, so that makes them a success.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 workers at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

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