General Electric Co, the world's largest manufacturing company, said it had reached a tentative 4-year deal with two of its largest unions regarding wages, pensions, and other employee benefits.
The agreement was reached between GE's management and the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA) and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Both unions cover 16,000 employees.
The terms and conditions, on which the union members will start to vote this week, will also be extended to GE's 11 other unions, the company said.
About 24,000 GE workers in 13 unions are seeking better pension benefits, job security and a cap on rising healthcare costs. Union leaders had threatened to go on strike a month ago if GE's management did not agree to some of the union demands. The agreement follows a session of rocky negotiations during which the unions had turned down an initial GE proposal to share healthcare costs, according to sources familiar with those talks.
The union's leaders who agreed with GE represent workers in various GE locations including Erie in PA, Ford Edward, Schenectady and Waterford in NY, Ontario in California, Louisville in KY, and Lynn in MA, U.S.
"IUE-CWA has met its goals of safeguarding affordable health insurance and substantially increasing pensions for our members," said IUE-CWA president Edward Fire.
The local leaders of the IUE-CWA union, which covers 13,000 employees, plan to meet on Wednesday and if approved by members the deal is expected to be ratified in a vote by June 24.
In January, the IUE-CWA staged a two-day national strike -- GE's first since 1969 -- over an increase in out-of-pocket medical expenses. GE pays more than 80 percent of its workers' healthcare expenses, which it says have risen 45 percent since the last round of negotiations.
"We faced difficult issues -- a challenging economy and rising healthcare costs -- but everyone at the table remained focused on doing the right thing for our employees and GE," said GE's senior vice president for human resources, William Conaty. "The result is an overall package that will provide a significant economic growth for our employees over the next few years," he said. (Reuters)
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