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What you need to know for 01/17/2017

Union protests outcome of discipline case with Momentive strike

Union protests outcome of discipline case with Momentive strike

Unions representing nearly 800 employees at Momentive Performance Materials went on strike Thursday
Union protests outcome of discipline case with Momentive strike
Strikers man a picket line Thursday outside Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford.
Photographer: Bruce Squiers

Unions representing nearly 800 employees at Momentive Performance Materials went on strike Thursday through Saturday as a protest against how a worker was disciplined.

Company spokesman John Scharf said the larger of the two unions at the plant, IUE-CWA Local 81359, which represents 700 people, notified management that it would strike after a grievance process about the employee’s discipline.

“They didn’t have the outcome that they wanted [in the grievance process], and therefore they chose to go out on strike,” he said.

Scharf said a worker committed a “significant safety violation” in late 2009 and was suspended.

The union could not be reached for comment, though a message on its website said that it was on strike and that it was challenging the company, which it said threatened to cancel employees’ benefits unless they crossed the picket lines.

A representative from the other striking union, IUE-CWA Local 81380, which represents 80 workers, declined comment on the strike.

The strike was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Thursday and end at 7 a.m. Saturday.

The silicones and quartz manufacturing plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will remain open for about 300 salaried employees there and for any of the union workers who wish to come to work during their scheduled shift.

“We are prepared to serve our customers,” Scharf said. “The company has implemented our contingency plans and we’re prepared to meet customer needs.”

That includes keeping operations going at the other 16 global silicone manufacturing sites, he said.

The Waterford plant’s last strike was a two-day picket in 2003, when the plant was still the General Electric Silicones Division plant.

Momentive Performance Materials was created from the sale of GE Advanced Materials to Apollo Management LP in December 2006 for $3.8 billion.

The company and the union agreed on a three-year contract in June after 18 months of contentious negotiations.

That happened after about 400 workers at the plant got a 25 percent pay reduction and workers complained to the National Labor Relations Board. The contract settlement included full back pay and interest for those union employees.

Now, plans to construct a $91 million global headquarters and technology center in the Rensselaer Technology Park are temporarily on hold while the company looks for the right builder, Scharf said.

“Once we had secure financing, the issue then became finding a builder that would build to the very specific specifications that we have. We’re looking for a global state-of-the-art research and development facility.”

The company had planned to start construction last fall.

Its headquarters is now in Columbus, Ohio, and was in Colonie before a merger last fall with Hexion Specialty Chemicals Inc. The office in Colonie is still open.

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