Brewery workers to vote on 3-year contract proposal Pact said to eliminate points of contention in negotiations

July 26, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

An end may be near to the four-week Teamsters Union strike at the G. Heileman Brewery with the agreement by negotiators early yesterday on a tentative three-year contract.

About 300 members of Teamsters Local 1010 are scheduled to vote on the proposed pact tomorrow morning at the union hall on Eastern Boulevard.

Jim Glass, secretary-treasurer of the local, said that the new proposal eliminates two side agreements that have been a stopper in contract negotiations.

According to local officials, union members last week rejected a contract proposal because it was tied to two letters of understanding that would have cut retiree medical benefits and imposed stiff disciplinary action for any confrontation between union strikers and those who worked during the strike.

Mr. Glass said that he could not release information on the new proposal's wage offer, but said that the economic package appeared acceptable.

The proposal rejected by members July 14 had provided for a 70-cent hourly raise spread over three years, union officials said. The brewery's offer before the strike was a 50-cent raise; the union said it struck because workers were making between $1 and $1.50 an hour less than Heileman employees in other states.

Employees at the Halethorpe brewery earn a little more than $13.30 an hour.

The tentative contract was hammered out by early morning by national and local representatives of the union and Heileman at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters headquarters in Washington.

A Heileman spokesman yesterday acknowledged that a contract proposal would be voted on by the union but declined further comment.

The 30-year-old brewery in Halethorpe works around-the-clock to produce beer, malt liquor and other brewed beverages, including National Bohemian, National Premium, Colt .45, and Carling's Black Label.

The brewery talked earlier this year about expansion plans that would add a new brewing kettle and six large fermenting tanks. But its owner, LaCrosse, Wis.-based G. Heileman Brewing Co., is facing a financial squeeze.

In the four years since it was acquired in a leveraged buyout by Australian tycoon Alan Bond, the debt-burdened company has seen its sales drop sharply. In January, Heileman filed for bankruptcy court protection after failing to meet debt payments.

The company, which has breweries in four other states, is the nation's fifth-largest brewer and built its reputation as a leading marketer of regional beers. Industry analysts have questioned whether Heileman can continue to profitably produce small runs of local beers, such as National Boh, if it is forced to sell off larger-market products to pay creditors.

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