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UAW approves contract with Caterpillar

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Caterpillar

DECATUR – Union workers in Decatur voted with a majority of their colleagues to accept Caterpillar Inc's latest contract offer, it was revealed Monday afternoon, but were later stunned to discover a promised $3,000 bonus wasn't a done deal.

A “no” vote by members of United Auto Workers Local 974 in Peoria apparently puts the bonus in danger for all union members, according to a statement on the Facebook page of Decatur's UAW Local 751. The Peoria workers will meet for a crucial second vote on their factory agreement Saturday, the UAW regional leadership announced in a statement.

“Our ratification bonus hinges on their local agreement being ratified,” Local 751 told its members in a Facebook posting. “If it does not ratify, we will attempt to return to the bargaining table for the ratification bonus amount ONLY. All other terms of the agreement go into effect today (March 27).”

Local 751 leadership did not immediately respond to a request from the Herald & Review seeking comment.

Documents describing the new six-year contract released previously to Local 751 members had told them the $3,000 bonus would be paid if members of the union's “UAW Caterpillar National Policy Committee”, which had negotiated it, unanimously recommended the agreement for ratification, and they did. Without the unanimous endorsement, the signing bonus was due to drop to $2,000.

Workers commenting on the Local 751 Facebook page appeared shocked to learn that a “no” vote from another Local could endanger the $3,000 payout for everybody else.

“How the hell does Decatur's entire bonus hinge on the Peoria Local?” wrote Kyle Snyder. “Explain that to me.”

Some 5,000 UAW members in 11 Caterpillar facilities across Illinois and Pennsylvania had voted Sunday in a ballot to ratify the contract.

In addition to the ratification bonuses, the contract gives 2 percent wage hikes in December 2018 and 2020 for all workers hired after 2005. Those workers are also entitled to “market-based wage adjustments” (designed to reflect what comparable jobs outside Caterpillar pay) and if those adjustments work out at more than 2 percent, workers will get those increases instead.

Workers hired before 2005, who are on different pay scales, do not get the two 2 percent wage increases. But they are eligible for market-based wage adjustments in December 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022. Pre-2005 hires will also get a $1,000 lump sum payment in December 2020.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, under the new agreement, blue collar workers get access to the same health care plans as management enjoyed previously. The union said this will expand options and deliver cost savings.

Caterpillar management issued a qualified welcome of Sunday's UAW vote but clearly has its eye on what happens next in Peoria.

“Overall, we are happy with (Sunday's) vote to ratify a new six-year labor agreement, which provides competitive wages and benefits for our employees and their families,” said Jon Ginzel, Caterpillar's director of labor relations.

“We expect the UAW to work closely with the UAW Local 974 to achieve a ratified local contract shortly.”

The company also stressed that, despite the holdouts in Peoria who voted 55 percent to 45 percent to reject the wage and benefits deal, the “Central Agreement” got enough votes overall to be considered ratified.

“All employees, including represented employees in the Peoria-area, remain on the job under the terms of the new Central Agreement, which includes a no strike, no lockout provision,” Caterpillar said in the same statement that quoted Ginzel.

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