GE unions ratify new agreements

General Electric’s two major unions have given a thumbs-up to new four-year contracts.

General Electric’s two major unions have given a thumbs-up to new four-year contracts.

The International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America voted 70 percent to 30 percent to ratify the agreement. More than 34 local unions representing 8,000 members participated in the balloting, according to a statement on the GE Workers United website.

The employees covered by the agreements include 1,200 IUE-CWA workers at GE Energy in Schenectady and 170 UE workers at GE Energy in Fort Edward.

A specific vote tally was not available, but GE spokeswoman Chris Horne said the contract was approved in Schenectady by a two-to-one margin.

“We have a strong history of partnering with the IUE Local 301 in Schenectady to create and preserve excellent jobs while remaining competitive. We’re happy to be building upon that foundation with the ratification of this contract,” she said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to returning to our collective focus of producing great products for our customers and driving growth for GE.”

The pact calls for a cash payment of $5,000 to be paid in July and general wage increases of 2.25 percent in June 2012, 2.5 percent in June 2013 and 3 percent in June 2014. Also, there are eight cost-of-living adjustments that result in 12 percent pay gains when combined with the general increase, according to company officials.

The company also is creating a new health care plan for employees as a way to bring down costs. And there are changes to the retirement plans that significantly increase the pension for employees.

The contract also offers early retirement and regular retirement options for about 800 hourly and nonexempt employees, including an incentive payment equal to 75 percent of pay for those groups.

GE reached tentative agreements with the unions on June 19, following a month of talks, and then sent them to the union national delegates for endorsement before the members voted.

“These were difficult negotiations in a difficult economic climate. Members evaluated the package as whole and found it acceptable,” Bob Santamoor, IUE-CWA GE and Aerospace Conference Board chairman, said in a statement.

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