Union group votes 208-14 to reject new Central Moloney work offer

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1658 in the transformer wing of the Central Moloney plant here voted overwhelmingly Tuesday afternoon to reject a new three-year work and benefits package offered by the 63-year-old company.

Casting their ballots after meeting at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, the workers voted 208-14 against the proposed contract. The union’s negotiating committee will meet Friday to decide its next course of action, which could be a strike, according to local President Charles West.

West said the union doesn’t “want to strike,” but company officials are responding to union proposals by “throwing everything back into our faces.”

“The union and the company have to get along,” he said. “It’s to our mutual advantage. “We want them to extend the current contract for at least another year, but they want us to pay more” on insurance and other costs.

Union workers in Central Moloney’s Components Division ratified the company’s new offer 10-6. The union has a total membership of 317, West said.

“One way or another, things will have to work out,” said Central Moloney Vice President Chris Hart, also chairman of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hart believes the current contract offer puts the company in “the best position” to continue serving its employees, customers and partnering firms.

Hart – who has been with Central Moloney since 2002 – said the company, which supplies distribution transformers throughout the world, has never experienced a “work stoppage.”

West, a 17-year Central Moloney employee, said there are numerous points within the new contract on which the company and union disagree, including:

• Hourly employees won’t receive all the benefits offered to salaried workers.

• Proposed salary hikes over the next three years won’t match standard cost-of-living increases. The company package offers no salary increase for 2012 and only 2 and 3 percent, respectively, for 2013 and 2014.

• Company contributions to workers’ pension funds are currently fixed at $18.50 a month for each year of employment, limited to 20 years. The company is proposing no increase for 2012, 50 cents a month for 2013, and $1 a month in 2014. The union wants more.

• The union wants to maintain collective bargaining rights as outlined in the old contract. The company is proposing a reduction in some job transfer options in favor of quicker dismissal.

• Health insurance eligibility changes, policies’ deductible and out-of-pocket expenses, and company profit requirements on collected premiums “will probably make coverage unaffordable to many employees and their families.”