Westinghouse, unions reach terms on contract

August 30, 1994|By Patricia Horn | Patricia Horn,Sun Staff Writer Bloomberg Business News contributed to this article.

Westinghouse Electric Corp. and union leaders reached a tentative four-year contract agreement yesterday only hours after workers set up picket lines outside the company's Linthicum plant and other facilities.

Over the next four years, union members would receive a 13 percent wage increase, but the agreement also calls for cost controls on health care and pension benefits.

The agreement -- reached two hours after a midnight strike deadline -- affects 5,400 Westinghouse employees at 31 locations around the United States, including 2,100 workers at the Linthicum plant represented by the Federation of Independent Salaried Unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers (IUE).

"If I measured it from when we started negotiating to today, we did very well," said John G. Chilcote, executive vice president of the Salaried Employees Association, an affiliate of the Federation of Independent Salaried Unions. "We're satisfied, under the circumstances. It is not a good time for defense workers right now."

James S. Moore, a Westinghouse senior vice president of corporate human relations, likewise expressed satisfaction.

"Both company and union negotiators are to be commended for arriving at a pay and benefits package that responds to employees' needs today while helping to keep our business strong and competitive in our worldwide markets," he said.

The four-year agreement -- which probably will be voted on by rank-and-file union members within the next two weeks -- includes:

* Three general wage increases and seven cost-of-living adjustments totaling about 13 percent over four years.

* Two lump-sum payments totaling $1,500.

* Changes to the pension plan, including restrictions on lump-sum payments for early retirees.

* Changes in medical benefits, including making the managed-care option to most employees and retirees, increasing co-payments on traditional health care coverage and, effective Jan. 1, 1996, limiting pre-Medicare retirees to the managed-care plan where available.

Differences over heath benefits created the biggest sticking points during negotiations, and they prompted the brief walkout at several plants.

"We feel strongly that the rank and file going on strike was the key to this movement," said Robert Wentroble, an IUE negotiator. "That's when we got the movement on the health care."

"The unions' biggest loss was in the health care area for retirees; it seems to be a trend [in negotiations] to attack retirees' medical plans," he said. One of the unions' biggest gains, he said, was in limiting the co-payment increases.

The agreement with the IUE and IBEW, which represent 2,400 Westinghouse employees, sets the pattern for local contracts between Westinghouse and three other unions, which represent employees.

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