Poly-Seal strikers ratify contract

April 22, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

The seven-week strike at Poly-Seal Corp., a Baltimore-based maker of plastic caps and seals, ended yesterday after workers accepted a new three-year contract that is only slightly different than one they had earlier rejected.

The provisions of the contract are similar to those turned downlast week, except the new contract includes a cap on increases in health insurance payments by workers and commits the union and the company to try to find a less expensive health care plan, said Eugene W. Dorr, staff representative of the United Steelworkers of America District 8.

The vote to ratify the contract was 189 to 79, Mr. Dorr said.

"It's not what we wanted, but it's something," Mr. Dorr said. "I'm happy that it's over and the people hung together."

About 380 workers represented by Steelworkers Local 6967 wenton strike March 2 at two Poly-Seal plants, one on Pulaski Highway and one at Holabird Industrial Park. A third company plant on Shannon Drive in Baltimore, where workers are represented by a different union, was not affected.

The strike was sparked by disputes over a seven-day work schedule that would include 12-hour work days and changes in health insurance that workers felt limited choices while raising costs.

In the end, the company got the seven-day operating schedule, butdepartments can vote on whether they want an 8- or 12-hour work day.

"We think it was a fair settlement," said Robert N. Gillman, president and chief executive of Poly-Seal. "It should allow us to remain competitive in the marketplace."

For health care, the medical plan was upgraded from a health maintenance organization to a "point of service" plan that is less restrictive but still requires workers to get permission from a primary care physician before using specialists.

Workers have to pay half of any increase in health care costs, but it is limited to 12 percent in any one year. Above that, the company picks up the full amount, Mr. Dorr said.

Wages, which average between $8.25 and $9.25 an hour, will increase by about 4 percent a year, or about $1 an hour over the three years.

Some of the workers leaving the meeting yesterday said they voted for the contract because they felt the union had gotten as much as it could and they feared being replaced by new workers and fellow employees crossing the line.

Since last week the company hired about 55 to 60 permanent replacement workers, and about 30 strikers crossed the picket line, Mr. Gillman said.

The replacement workers will retain their jobs and some of the strikers will be on layoff, eligible to collect unemployment benefits, Mr. Dorr said. But they will be rehired as openings occur and they will retain their seniority, he said.

"I'm hoping that everybody will be back in three or four months."

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