IUE-CWA members ratify GE contract

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2003 — IUE-CWA members ratified the 2003-2007 GE national agreement by a 74 percent margin of actual votes cast with all 48 locals reporting in.

The vote delivers a four-year contract that achieves the union’s goal of holding the line on health care costs by freezing co-pays and limiting modest premium charges to two capped increases over the life of the agreement.

As a result, GE’s current 82 percent share of health care costs will be maintained. GE also has agreed to join the National Coalition on Health Care to try to address the root cause of out-of-control health care costs in the United States, which leave 42 million Americans without insurance coverage.

“This agreement is a tremendous victory for IUE-CWA members, other GE workers and all working families,” said IUE-CWA President Edward Fire. “One of the largest companies in the world making the highest profits in the world wanted workers to pay 30 percent. We stopped unfair health care cost shifting in its tracks. Other companies should get the message: shifting health care costs to those least able to afford it is not acceptable.”

With the ratification, GE also has agreed to abide by a stronger code of conduct in organizing campaigns. The company’s disparaging comments and assaults on the union were a major issue at the bargaining table. Under the new Fair Campaign Conduct agreement, GE agreed to no longer attack the union, its leadership or its collective bargaining agreements. Violations of these rules will be subject to mediation.

“This code of conduct is a strong step forward in creating a level playing field for GE workers to choose whether to join a union,” said Fire. “We will build on it in future negotiations.” IUE-CWA currently has Working at GE (WAGE) organizing committees at close to a dozen plants around the country.

“I congratulate all the members and the national bargaining committee on their hard work in winning this breakthrough agreement,” said IUE-CWA/GE Conference Board Chairman Art Smith. “It was their will and determination, including the strike in January, that delivered this contract.”

Among other improvements, the agreement will:

* Boost wages by 16.5 percent, or a $3.52 increase in the average hourly wage by contract’s end.

* Give the typical IUE-CWA member an extra $15,272 in his or her pocket after paying small increases in premiums for health care.

* Improve pensions in five key areas, including significant increases in the guaranteed minimum pension table, and reduced employee contributions. The average pension check will increase by around 36 percent.

* Give special early retirement opportunities to 1,020 union members — a 67 percent increase from the last contract.

* Give retirees a “13th” check in December 2003, the first time ever GE has responded to bargaining discussions on retiree pension increases.

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