The United Auto Workers in Springfield voted to ratify its six-year local contract Saturday, putting an end to an unusual national debate.
The local contract has prevented Navistar employees nationwide from receiving lump sum payouts they say they were owed by Jan. 17. Though 83 percent of UAW members at the seven Navistar locations voted to ratify the main agreement, and the UAW said it was binding, Navistar said all local and national contracts must be ratified before any of the proposed changes would take effect.
Springfield was the only group that didn’t ratify its local contract in December. The Springfield UAW came to a tentative agreement with Navistar Tuesday and voted Saturday to ratify the contract with 80 percent support, according to documents on the union’s website.
“What I’m happy about is that we secured a six-year contract with the company and we can move forward with people getting their raises, their bonus payments,” said Chris Blizard, president of the UAW Springfield Local 402. “…It’s nice to know that you’re going to be secure and have an agreement with the company for another six years. It’s just job security.”
The lump sum payments, which include a $2,000 signing bonus, a $1,000 profit-sharing payout, and a 4-percent lump sum payment for workers this year and 3-percent lump sum payments in 2020 and 2022, were a major point of contention last week as UAW’s Jan. 17 deadline approached.
But since Navistar did not view the contract as ratified until the local contracts were passed, Navistar spokeswoman Lyndi McMillan said the payouts couldn’t be granted by that day. The contract would have had to be ratified on voting day in December for that day to remain the deadline.
UAW’s national office in Detroit sent a letter Jan. 17 to local UAW’s announcing that the union and Navistar had mutually reached an agreement to extend the deadline to Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 for different lump sum payouts in the agreement, Blizard said.
In additional to the payouts, major focuses of the national agreements included eliminating the two-tier wage system. Other highlights include pension plan improvements and language to keep the contract intact in case the company is sold or merged.
In the local agreement, UAW was focused on preventing major changes to work rules, including job movement based on seniority. McMillan previously told the Springfield News Sun that UAW and Navistar met daily to negotiate in the days leading up to the tentative agreement.
“This contract will benefit both our employees and the company,” said Mark Hernandez, senior vice president of global manufacturing at Navistar. “It provides significant economic benefits for our employees, and also allows the company to implement team concepts at our Springfield plant that will set the plant up for long-term success and continue to improve quality, safety and cost.”
There is also a specific agreement for skilled trade workers that those employees vote on, which did not pass as only 47 percent voted yes. But it will have no bearing on the ratification of the local agreement, Blizard said.
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