Source: Amarillo Globe News | Aaron Davis | October 4, 2015
The Pantex workers union, represented by the Metal Trades Council, voted in a secret ballot Sunday to ratify the contract negotiated between the union and Consolidated Nuclear Security ending the longest labor-related work stoppage in the plant’s history
The new four-year labor agreement was negotiated with help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.
Workers voted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in a secret ballot at Caprock High School. The agreement required a simple majority to ratify.
“This process has come to a conclusion and we feel extremely fortunate to have the ability to collectively bargain for our current conditions of employment,” said Charles Thomas, vice president of the Metal Trades Council. “We were able to maintain the levels of care that we had previously and we were able to control costs through the collective bargaining process.”
The main sticking point between CNS, the company that operates the plant, and the council was the escalating costs of health care benefits.
Sunday marked the 39th day of the strike, which surpassed the last MTC strike at Pantex in 1970; that one lasted for 26 days.
On Aug. 8, 87 percent of the unionized members of the MTC rejected a four-year contract proposal from CNS that represented its “best, last and final” offer.
The strike began Aug. 28 after the MTC rejected the idea of a benefits valuation, which would compare Pantex workers’ benefits with those of workers at other businesses in the area. The sides eventually agreed on a smaller increase, union officials said.
On Sept. 22, federal negotiators arrived at the Pantex Plant to help resolve the labor dispute.
“These were difficult and stressful negotiations for the employer and union representatives,” said Allison Beck, director of FMCS. “This tentative agreement is the result of many long days and many late nights for both sides. In their discussions, labor and management were faced with complex issues and some very tough choices, which they were dedicated to resolving. Thanks to their efforts, we now have reason to hope normal operations will soon be restored at this vital facility.”
As part of the strike settlement agreement, MTC will withdraw a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board that claimed CNS had refused to furnish information during ongoing contract negotiations. However, MTC did not withdraw a charge that alleges CNS unilaterally changed the contract that was filed in March .
All workers are scheduled to return to work today at the nuclear armament and disarmament facility located northeast of Amarillo. MTC issued a press release directing workers to wait for their supervision to notify them of instructions to report to work.
Although the health benefits will go up, MTC spokesperson Charles Thomas said that this was also a factor of all insurance costs going up.
“Every American’s health care will go up over the years, but through collective bargaining we were able to control how much they go up,” Thomas said. “We were only able to do this because we had the ability to collectively bargain.”