Strike continues after picketers reject sixth contract offer from Kellogg’s
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Kellogg’s strikers remain on the picket line after the most recent attempt to reach a compromise between the major cereal manufacturer and the BCTGM union failed.
This extends a strike that has now lasted for over two months.
A tentative agreement was actually reached at the beginning of December, but union leaders wanted to let their fellow members have the final say.
A vote was held Sunday, Dec. 5, and all four U.S. plants in Memphis, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Battle Creek, Michigan, and Omaha, Nebraska voted.
The vote was no deal.
“The members have spoken,” said Memphis VP of the BCTGM Union (252g) Kevin Bradshaw. “The union leaders, like myself, we support what the members decide, so that decision was to reject the contract.”
Bradshaw said he and other union leaders were able to make some enhancements to the two-tier pay structure in contract, one of the main issues workers had with the original proposal in late September.
The pay structure would divide workers into two groups, those who have worked for the company for more than six years - legacy employees - and those who have worked less - new hires.
The new hires, under the original contract, would make $13 less per hour than the legacy employees until their sixth year, making what the company calls a “legacy rate.”
The enhancements Bradshaw mentioned would give vision and dental insurance to the new hires, something they didn’t have originally.
It would also bump 3 percent of new hires to the legacy group each year (nine employees each year in Memphis, according to Bradshaw), regardless of time served within the six-year window, and give annual pay raises to the rest of the new hires who aren’t bumped up.
Despite these changes, the vote was still no, but Bradshaw isn’t discouraged.
“It does give me hope because it lets the company know that what they thought was enough is not enough, so we’re going to stand here one day longer and one day stronger until we get what members deserve and what they want,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kellogg’s seems to have waited long enough for strikers to accept their terms.
“We are disappointed that the tentative agreement for a master contract over our four U.S. cereal plants was not ratified by employees. The tentative agreement would have provided an accelerated, defined path to legacy wages and benefits for transitional employees, and wage increases and enhanced benefits for all, on top of what is already an industry-leading compensation package, among other items. The tentative agreement included no concessions or takeaways.
We have made every effort to reach a fair agreement, including making six offers to the union throughout negotiations, all which have included wage and benefits increases for every employee. It appears the union created unrealistic expectations for our employees.
The prolonged work stoppage has left us no choice but to hire permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers. These are great jobs and posting for permanent positions helps us find qualified people to fill them.
While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity. We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love.”
(In the attribution bar at the bottom, please put Kris Bahner, Kellogg Spokesperson)
Bradshaw said he isn’t fazed by the threat of hiring replacement employees.
“That’s a scare tactic,” Bradshaw said. “I mean, they’ve tried those scare tactics before. I mean, they can’t hire enough people in one plant, let alone 1,400. So, one day long and one day stronger. If they can hire and replace us, that’s a good try, but do you see anything running right now? I mean, that’s just another ploy, so we’re not worried about that.”
According to Bradshaw, many of the Kellogg’s workers in Memphis have taken other temporary jobs as they wait for a deal to be reached between BCTGM and Kellogg’s.
For now, leaders wait for another set of dates for another round of negotiations, hopefully, one that will end with both sides happy and bring workers back inside.
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