Maytag labor talks to continue next week

Maytag labor talks to continue next week
 
Date June 25, 2004
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

On the same day Maytag Corp., and union officials announced that talks will continue next week on their stalled contract negotiation, the company put out a call for volunteers from its salaried employees to work at its Newton production plant.

In a joint release issued late Thursday, the company and UAW Local 997 officials said they had met for the past two days in Chicago “to discuss all critical elements of a potential labor agreement at Maytag‘s manufacturing facilities in Newton.”

Although agreeing to meet next week, the announcement did not specify when the talks would begin.

“Both Maytag and UAW officials have agreed to meet again next week to resume discussions,” the release stated. “While negotiations are continuing, both parties agreed not to comment on the progress, status or location.”

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a governmental agency established by federal law to mediate labor disputes, was involved in the two-day session in Chicago.

Maytag Corp. spokesperson Karen Lynn would not say whether the federal agency would be involved in the negotiations next week.

Workers represented by UAW Local 997 went on strike June 10 after negotiations broke down. The contract expired at midnight May 31, but the sides continued negotiations and workers remained on the job. The primary sticking points include health care costs and retirement benefits, union officials have said.

At the time of the strike, the contract covered 1,525 production employees, 700 workers on layoff and 2,000 retirees. On Wednesday, several hundred of those on layoff returned to the plant for a short period of time and then elected to join striking workers. These workers are now classified as strikers, losing their unemployment benefits.

In a memo to salaried employees at Maytag‘s headquarters building on Thursday, the company sought volunteers to begin production at its laundry plant next week.

“In an effort to accommodate Maytag‘s customer product needs during the present work stoppage at Newton Laundry Products, Maytag is seeking employees from its salaried workforce to perform production assignments at NLP, beginning next week,” the memo says.

The “voluntary opportunity” asks salaried employees to commit to a one-week period beginning Monday. The shift will run from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those volunteering will be paid at their current salary levels.

Lynn said today that she did not know whether there was sufficient interest by salaried employees for production to begin at the plant. The memo said that if there is enough interest, an orientation/safety session would be conducted today “to prepare individuals for next week’s production activities.”

In addition to the labor strike in Newton, the corporation is also involved in a major restructuring that will cut 20 percent of its salaried work force company-wide.

A week before the strike, the corporation announced that it will integrate its Hoover and Maytag Appliances operations and close office space at its North Canton, Ohio, site.

The majority of the 1,100 positions to be cut will come from its Ohio facility and at Maytag‘s Newton operation. Company responses to questions posed by salaried employees indicate that “the majority of the reductions will take place before June 30.”

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