SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 23, 2013

General Electric union votes to issue 'strike notice'

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — LYNN — The union representing 1,900 workers at the General Electric aviation plant in Lynn is threatening to go on strike over the company’s practice of outsourcing work.

The IUE-CWA Local 201 grievance board voted unanimously yesterday to issue a strike notice to General Electric.

Local 201 Business Agent Ric Casilli said the vote means the union can put the company on notice at any time in the next year that it plans to strike within 24 hours.

Casilli said GE Aviation, which makes jet engines, has been “farming out” more work to other plants or vendors in violation of the union’s contract. He said the practice increased after 215 union members retired in late 2011 and early 2012.

“We said to the company, ‘You’ve got to hire back, we’re 215 people short,’” Casilli said. “Since then, they’ve hired 115 members back, but we’re still short 100 people. That’s the heart of what’s causing the issue. When a manager is short manpower, the easiest thing to do is to farm out work to an outside vendor or another plant.”

This is the first time that the union has issued a strike notice since 2007, according to Casilli. The last strike came in 2002, when the union walked out for four days, also over the outsourcing issue, he said.

Yesterday’s vote followed a vote last Thursday by Local 201 shop stewards recommending the strike notice be issued.

The union said in a press release that strike notices will be sent to the company “on a date and time subject to the discretion of the Business Agent.”

“At that time, the union would be willing to meet with the company immediately to discuss the dispute and contemplated action,” the union said.

GE spokesman Richard Gorham said the company had not received a strike notice as of yesterday so he could not comment.

Gorham said GE has been using outside vendors and suppliers for years to make its aircraft engines.

“They’re very complex and comprised of hundreds of parts,” he said. “We source from a variety of vendors and suppliers. That’s always been the case.”

Local 201 said General Electric is required by contract to notify the union before it farms out work but has violated that provision “numerous times” in the last year. Gorham said the company does notify the union when it is required to do so.

According to the union, the company suspended a shop steward for two days last week for alleged “insubordination” and “abuse of company property” over the steward’s attempt to prevent outsourcing.

“Despite the strong support that members and his union have for him, we are asking people not to ‘wildcat’ (walk out illegally) and to contain their emotions at this time,” the union said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.