METROPOLIS, IL (KFVS) - It's been a year since the Honeywell plant in Metropolis sent more than 220 union workers with the USW Local 7-669 packing.
"It's been a tough year and a long year," said John Paul Smith USW Local 7-669
"And we've also proven what a small group of determined strong people can do. We can stand up against a corporate giant in this country. And let them know the middle class in America is still fighting."
But it's not a fight Honeywell's spokesperson Peter Dalpe says the company wants.
Dalpe released this statement on Tuesday about the lock out, and contract negotiations.
Honeywell has from the beginning of negotiations more than a year ago been consistent in its commitment to reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable to employees and that supports the company's effort to reverse operating losses at the plant.
We have had a comprehensive contract proposal in front of the union for more than a year, but the union has never put that for a vote with its membership. It has also rejected the offer of a federal mediator. The company proposal would allow for union employees to return to work and remain among the highest paid employees in the local area.
At this point, we've had a tentative agreement with the union on most issues, including employee and retiree healthcare, pensions and job movement. The only remaining major issue, as identified by the union, is overtime. The company wants to pay overtime to employees after they have worked more than 40 hours in a week, the way most hourly workers in the U.S. are paid. The union wants to preserve a complex and easy-to-manipulate system where they could "pyramid," or combine various overtime rates, to multiply their own pay without doing any additional work.
We remain committed to meeting with the union to negotiate a settlement, but it has been more than a month since the union's lead negotiator promised to give us new negotiating dates. We have never refused to meet with the union or walked away from the bargaining table. Unfortunately, the union has ended scheduled talks early on most, including our last session on May 26, when the union walked away from negotiations after just a few minutes, apparently to attend a political rally that day in Springfield.
In the meantime, the plant continues to operate safely and productively. Over the past 10 months, production has increased 24 percent compared to the same period the year prior and since the lockout began, recordable injuries have been cut in half. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has spent more than 800 inspection hours at the plant and continues to reiterate that the plant is operating safely and securely.
But, Smith says a simple phone call from the company can settle everything.
"The last time we negotiated with the company we told them what it would take to settle the contract, and thought we had a deal worked out. And the next day they backed off that. So at any point and time they can pick up the phone and let us know they're ready to settle. We can go back to work," said Smith.
"Things go as long as it takes for Honeywell to decide to give it's workers a fair contract. We're not going to back down. We're not going to stop fighting for what we believe is right."