Martin Marietta rebuffed Workers reject contract offer

November 08, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

Union workers at Martin Marietta Corp. plants in Baltimore, Denver and Orlando, Fla., voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reject the company's proposed three-year contract.

The current contract extension expires at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, when the union could call a strike, though it says it hopes to avoid a work stoppage.

Members of Local 738 of the United Auto Workers, which represents about 400 production workers at Martin Marietta's Middle River complex, turned their backs on a $750 signing bonus and voted nearly 10-to-1 against the proposed contract.

The vote at Middle River was 332 to 37. The combined vote of all three union locals was 1,320 to 210.

The UAW leadership had recommended that members reject the company's so-called "last and final offer."

"I think we can get a lot better contract if we are sent back to the bargaining table," Kenneth Miles, bargaining chairman for Local 738, told members during an hour-long meeting yesterday morning at the UAW Local 239 hall in Southeast Baltimore.

Martin Marietta will decide this week whether to resume talks, said Kim Ethridge, a spokeswoman for corporate headquarters in Bethesda. "There is no course of action from management's side at this time," she said.

Ms. Ethridge defended the company's proposal: "We would not have offered something we didn't think was fair." She declined to discuss details of the offer.

Local workers were most disturbed over a company proposal to cut -- by 40 cents an hour -- cost-of-living adjustments, which the union had already won in previous contracts. The company is also proposing a 3.5 percent raise for each of the next three years, but the union says inflation could all but wipe out these raises.

The cut in the cost-of-living payment would reduce the average worker's pay by $832 in each year of the agreement, Mr. Miles said.

"This is the worst offer they have made in 15 years," Scott Brode said yesterday morning as he stood in line to cast his vote against the offer. "We should send a clear message back to the corporation that we don't think we should take concessions."

Mr. Brode was also disturbed by another provision that allowed the company to bring back laid off workers at lower pay. Mr. Brode was laid off in March after 15 years with the company as a metal heat treatment specialist.

"Under this proposal," he said, "they could bring me back at $5 to $7 an hour less than what I was earning when I got laid off."

Shirley Underwood, a representative of the UAW International, seemed to set the tone of the Baltimore meeting when she said, "We don't want to break this company, it's our company, too. We want to come up with something we can all live with."

Martin Marietta also wants to eliminate 126 cafeteria and janitorial jobs, about 20 at Middle River, and contract for those services.

Referring to Martin Marietta's $3.05 billion acquisition earlier this year of GE's aerospace division, as well as reports that it's negotiating to buy General Dynamics Corp.'s space division and the jet engine thrust reverser business of GE, Mr. Miles said: "They can afford to spend billions of dollars on these companies, but they want to pay for it with money from our pockets."

Mr. Miles said the union still hope to avoid a strike, which would be the first at Middle River in about 30 years.

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