Johnson & Towers strikers accept 3-year contract

Stoppage affected centers at Middle River, Beltsville

April 26, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Nearly 100 workers who struck two Johnson & Towers Inc. facilities earlier this week will return to work Monday after they voted yesterday to accept a three-year contract, a union official said.

The 97 workers, members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, struck the company's automotive services and distribution centers in Middle River and Beltsville after contract negotiations broke down last week.

The previous three-year contract between Teamsters Local 311 and the Mount Laurel, N.J.-based company expired at midnight April 18.

Yesterday, the company's mechanics voted 74 to 4 to ratify the new agreement. Clerical staff at the company who also belong to the union voted 7 to 0 to ratify a similar agreement, said Kenneth Kelm, secretary-treasurer of Local 311.

Among the main issues for the union were pay increases, health care costs, and the amount of personal and vacation days.

Workers accepted wage increases of 5 percent in the contract's first year, followed by 4 percent increases in each of the remaining two years, Kelm said.

The union had originally sought 5 percent increases in each of the three years. The company was offering 3 percent increases each year.

On health care, the company initially demanded that single employees pay $5 per week toward their coverage. Under the new contract, single employees don't have to pay anything, while the cost for family coverage goes up $5 - from $45 to $50 a week.

"The people stuck together and they got what they needed," Kelm said.

Paul Findeisen, senior vice president for Johnson & Towers, said the company would lose business and customers because of the strike.

"This could create layoffs," Findeisen said.

"We're going to have to do a lot of work to recover from what just happened."

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