Domino, union come to terms

Tentative contract ending month-old strike subject to vote by workers

January 10, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Domino Sugar workers, who have been on strike for more than a month, reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract yesterday, and will vote on the pact tomorrow.

Union officials declined to provide details of the agreement, which was reached after a federal mediator urged both sides this week to return to the bargaining table.

The union's 330 members will vote on the new contract at 9 a.m., said Alex Hamilton, president of Local 392 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.

Hamilton said the union negotiated with the company for the past three days before "we finally got something that we can take back to the people."

"The union thinks it's something that we can live with," Hamilton said, when asked if the union would urge its members to vote for the contract.

He said that picketing will continue outside the plant's main gate on East Key Highway in Locust Point. "But I think there's signs of relief on the picket line," Hamilton said.

A company negotiator confirmed the tentative agreement but declined further comment.

The strike at the Domino plant, one of Baltimore's best-known manufacturing landmarks, has been one of the rare instances of labor strife in the plant's 81-year history.

But it has been the first public sign of friction between the union and the plant's new owner, American Sugar Refining Co., which bought it in 2001 for more than $165 million.

Contract talks broke down early last month, and workers began around-the-clock picketing Dec. 8.

They said their main concerns were with proposed changes in how their pension fund would be managed; new contributions to their health care costs, which would peak at $100 per month; and the loss of two paid holidays.

Hamilton declined to say yesterday how the new contract is different from the one that the union offered the company early last month.

With most of its workers on strike, the Domino plant continued some operations with about 150 non-union workers.

Company officials have said that American Sugar has used other plants to compensate for reduced production in Baltimore.

The union vote will take place at the Knights of Columbus hall on Hull Street in Locust Point.

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