Cement company, union OK Union Bridge plant contract

September 12, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Lehigh Portland Cement Co. has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union at its Union Bridge plant, officials confirmed.

David Roush, manager of the Carroll County plant, would not release details about the agreement with the United Paperworkers International Union.

"Technically speaking, we arrived at an agreement on Sept. 2 at 2 or 2:30 in the morning," Mr. Roush said.

He would not say whether the agreement covered all five of the negotiating Lehigh sites or just Union Bridge.

"Our understanding is that as soon as the paperwork can flow, the local unions will meet and take a vote."

The five plants -- the others are in York, Pa.; Mitchell, Ind.; Leeds, Ala., and Cementon, N.Y. -- have been negotiating under the direction of a federal mediator for the past two years.

Union officials at each plant had been pushing for a common contract to cover all five sites.

About 150 Lehigh employees in Union Bridge have been working without a contract since they agreed to join the United Paperworkers in April 1991. The union has said safety issues and pay were the sticking points in negotiations.

James Harris, president of the local United Paperworkers unit, could not be reached for comment.

Union members, who picketed the plant and Mr. Roush's Westminster home several times this summer, have said previously that some senior employees have not received pay raises for 10 years.

Workers also were concerned about dangerous fumes from waste oil being burned at the plant.

Twenty-four Lehigh employees exposed to the fumes were sent to the hospital at least four times in the past two years.

In the most recent incident, Sept. 1, the company was cited by HTC the Mine Safety Health Administration, which oversees occupational safety for cement plants.

Mr. Roush said he was unsure when the union would vote on the agreement.

But Jeff Brozna, general counsel of Lehigh Portland Cement in Allentown, Pa., said he expects to release an announcement in the next few days.

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