Hides planned health plan increases, killing past practices in negotiations
By ED FINKELSTEIN
© Labor Tribune Publishing Co.
Callaway Nuclear Power Plant, Fulton, Mo – In their effort to set a bargaining pattern for their major unions here, Ameren Missouri has intentionally deceived their nuclear security officers union in current contract negotiations by not disclosing plans to substantially boost health care costs after a new contract was approved.
The union discovered the dishonesty via the grapevine. The company’s response when caught with their pants down: We didn’t tell you because we’re not legally required to do so!
The local’s expired contract has a clause that lets the company unilaterally modify the health care plan as long as it does so for all covered employees which includes some the other unions and management. Ameren said nothing in negotiations about plan changes and substantial cost increases to be borne by the employees in terms of higher premiums, deductibles and co-pays.
YET ANOTHER DECEPTION
And this is not the only deception the company attempted to foist on this young local, only first organized at the plant four years ago. It is now trying to negotiate its first renewal agreement.
The other major deception discovered by the union’s new Hammond & Shinners legal team is an attempt to eliminate “past practices” with a clause buried in their proposal, something unheard of in labor negotiations.
“…Very often the relationship between unions and employers is governed by unwritten practices which develop over time, in which both parties acquiesce. These ‘past practices’ are often considered by labor arbitrators to be binding, and to have the weight of actual contract terms,” said Greg Campbell, Hammond & Shinners lead attorney representing the union.
In a review of the company’s proposal after they were retained, Campbell discovered a sentence that read: “Upon the establishment of a past practice it must be reduced to writing and signed by both parties, or it will not be considered valid or binding.”
“This sentence would essentially eliminate the concept of past practice, since by definition past practices are unwritten. As you can imagine, this conduct has generated substantial distrust,” Campbell added.
See the first story in this four-part series: Potential strike at Callaway nuclear power plant a real possibility as Ameren attempts to castrate new nuclear security officers’ union
‘A MORAL SHORTCOMING’
The union filed charges against company with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the health care deception, but their charge was rejected on the basis that the union didn’t ask about the health care issue in their original negotiations so they can’t say they were deceived.
“We feel deceived regardless of the NLRB’s ‘technical’ decision. Not only is this dishonest, it’s a moral shortcoming as far as we’re concerned,” said Russ Langland, president of United Government Security Officers of America Local 11 (UGSOA). “This clearly demonstrates what we’re dealing with.”
After discovering the deception, Local 11 asked to negotiate health and welfare but Ameren refused, instead issuing its last, best and final offer that the membership promptly rejected by an 87.5 percent vote. At presstime, Ameren had not yet implemented it.
As was pointed out in Part 1 of this series, Ameren appears to be trying to bully its smallest union into accepting a totally unfair and unreasonable contract that would:
- Serve as a pattern for when the company opens contracts with its major unions at the nuclear plant — Operating Engineers Local 148 and IBEW Local 1455 and 1439. The company refused to return to the bargaining table saying that improving their last, best and final offer to Local 11 would set a dangerous precedent for the other unions’ contracts that expire over the next two years.
- Neuter the union’s ability to represent its 91 members
- Impose a regressive contract that is not only unfair, but also ignores basic human needs of the union’s members, especially its female security officers. (To be discussed in Part 3 next week).
The current contract expired July 1. Extensive negotiations have been underway since then with the company offering nothing but regressive proposals.
‘HIT THE BRICKS’
As reported last week, Ameren has given the local a “take it or leave it” offer, even brazenly telling the union they can “hit the bricks” if they don’t want to accept the company’s offer.
Strike discussions and planning are now underway, the Labor Tribune was told.
NOT THE ONLY
Despite refusing to deal with basic humans needs that will be detailed next week — not being able to take toilet breaks, unsanitary working conditions and refusal to let Local 11 new moms accept vacation help from co-workers — there are a myriad of other distasteful issues Ameren Missouri is attempting to foist on this small union.
“Our effort in these negotiations have been focused on retaining our rights and not waiving them with nothing in return,” Langland said.
The host of other unreasonable demands being made by Ameren Missouri, demands that border on contempt for its own employees charged with the solemn task of protecting a critical nuclear facility, include:
- Supervisors being allowed to do the security officers work without restrictions. Attempts by the union to define just what this would be were rejected.
- Unfettered management rights to allow Ameren to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants to do it.
- Forcing substantial increases in the employees’ portion of their health and welfare plan and the ability to make future unilateral increases when the company wants.
“The Company went into negotiations knowing that it was planning major changes in the (health) plan, yet did not divulge this critical information to Local 11. At the time that a tentative agreement was reached, Local 11’s negotiators were not aware of these planned changes. When the membership learned of these planned changes through other sources, the contract was overwhelmingly rejected,” Campbell noted.
- A pay increase of only 1.5 percent that is meaningless since the added costs of the health care plan alone would easily eat up that increase. “This would mean a quality of life hit for our members that no one else in the company is expected to endure,” Langland said.
(NEXT WEEK: Part 3 — The disgusting revelations of what the security officers have to endure while on the job: Can you imagine having to pee in mason jars because there are no readily available toilet facilities?)