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Behr-Dayton plant boosts wages, looks for 100 more workers

Faced with low unemployment and dramatically sharper competition for manufacturing workers across the region, MAHLE Behr and its Dayton union say they have agreed on a new, four-year contract raising starting wages.

And the Behr auto parts plant will have a hiring event later this month in a bid to find up to 100 additional workers.

At about 1,600 total workers, employment at the 1600 Webster St. plant has essentially doubled in the past decade, said Ellyn Chaney, the company’s human resources executive.

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She said the company and International Union of Electronic Workers-Communication Workers of America officers agreed to quietly launch contract talks months before the contract’s scheduled expiration this November.

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“We kind of went under the radar,” Chaney said Tuesday.

Tom Wilson, president of IUE-CWA Local 775, said the contract works for his members, which passed the tentative pact 365-237 in late June.

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New, higher wages took effect Monday. Starting wages are more competitive, with starting pay for production workers rising from $11.65 an hour to $13.60. The top rate for unskilled hourly employees tops out at $17, up from $15.

And while it once took a decade to hit that top rate, Chaney said it now takes five years.

For skilled trade workers — electricians, tool-and-die workers and general maintenance — wages previously started at $21.80 to $21.90 an hour, and they topped out at around $25, Chaney said.

Now, skilled wages start at $23.70 and max out above $31.

“Again, there was significant change to try to get and attract more skilled trades,” Chaney said.

“Everybody is pretty happy,” Wilson said. “I’m confident in it (the new contract).”

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The company’s hiring event will be Aug. 23 will be at the Drury Inn North, 6616 Miller Lane, from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Chaney said qualified applicants can expect on-site hiring.

Local 775 has about 1,400 members.

“Automotive for sure is alive and well,” Chaney said. “We have secured new business at this facility. We’re doing well.”

She acknowledged that the presence of companies like Fuyao Glass America in Moraine is forcing companies to raise their game. “We needed to bring ourselves up to a level to meet competition and then lead in some areas.”

German firm MAHLE GmbH took a majority ownership stake in the Behr Group, which owned the local plant, in 2013. The Dayton plant, once owned by Chrysler, has operated since the 1930s.

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