Maytag reaches contract with union workers at Amana plant

Maytag reaches contract with union workers at Amana plant
 
Date September 27, 2004
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By DAVID PITT

Associated Press Writer

Workers at the Amana Refrigeration plant in eastern Iowa ratified a new three-year contract Saturday, union officials said.

A tentative contract agreement between Maytag Corp. and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1526 was announced just hours before workers met to vote.

“It passed overwhelmingly,” said Sue Wilson, a special representative for the union. “I think that committee did one heck of a job on this contract.”

She declined to release specifics but said it did offer pay increases.

The Middle Amana plant, one of the region’s largest employers, has about 2,250 union workers covered under the contract and about 400 salaried employees.

Contract talks began in August. The current contract was set to expire Sunday.

Maytag spokeswoman Lynne Dragomier declined to discuss specifics of the contract proposal.

“We are pleased to have reached this new labor agreement between the I.A.M. Local 1526 and Maytag,” said Mark Krivoruchka, Maytag senior vice president, human resources. “This agreement demonstrates a willingness on the part of both parties to address the critical issues impacting our business to allow us to become more customer-responsive and competitive in the marketplace.”

Maytag, which bought Amana in 2001, has been struggling to cut production costs as cheaper imports eat into the market share of domestic appliance manufacturers. At the same time, unions are fighting hard to maintain health insurance and retirement benefits.

Workers at the Amana plant went on strike for seven weeks in 2001 and eventually reached a three-year agreement that boosted pay about 10 percent but allowed the company to start new workers at lower pay.

Middle Amana residents had expressed in recent weeks concern about a shutdown of the 1.9 million-square-foot Amana plant.

Those concerns were raised as Maytag completes the shutdown of a refrigerator plant in Galesburg, Ill., where 1,600 jobs were lost. Production work was transferred to Amana and to a new factory in Mexico.

A 27-day strike at Maytag‘s laundry products plant in Newton idled 1,525 workers represented by the United Auto Workers in June.

The resulting four-year contract required workers to pay more for health care and reduced retirement benefits for future workers.

The concessions will save Maytag about $13 million a year, CEO Ralph Hake told analysts in a July 23 conference call.

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