Solvay Council Members Optimistic About Future Labor Relations

Thirty USW Solvay Council members met Nov. 14-15, 2019 in Tinley Park, Ill., to receive updates on the company’s operations, discuss health and safety issues, share experiences with Solvay’s substance abuse program, and notify council members about new contracts and continuing negotiations. 

“This is one of the most organized and active councils in the chemical sector,” said USW Secretary Treasurer John Shinn. Shinn took over the USW’s chemical group when former International Vice President Carol Landry retired last July.

The USW represents 10 Solvay sites in the U.S., nearly all of which were represented at the meeting. 

New U.S. labor relations manager

Solvay’s new industrial relations officer/labor relations head for North America, Steve Cozzetto, introduced himself at the meeting and expressed his willingness to work with the council and the locals. This was a 180-degree change in labor relations between the USW and Solvay. 

“Steve is willing to talk through issues,” said Jeff Hill, who serves as the North American representative on the Solvay Global Forum. “He’s a breath of fresh air. We should have more cooperation from him.”

Cozzetto said he wants to meet with the company’s U.S. managers and educate them on the Solvay Global Framework Agreement (GFA) and how it applies going forward in working with unions.

The GFA says that Solvay management will be neutral during organizing drives, engage in a social dialogue with employees, adhere to labor and environmental standards, and conduct business in a sustainable manner.

“We need to keep working to put the GFA in place. The more we work together and push toward the GFA principles, the more we will be successful,” Hill said.

Shinn added: “This document enables us to go back and say to management they must treat the USW with respect.”

Cozzetto also attended the meeting to share with the council the company’s reorganization of its global business units. 

Solvay is a multi-specialties company, which sells chemicals that help the performance and processing of the customer’s product. 

Contract talks

After receiving the overall view of Solvay’s finances, restructuring and the effectiveness of the GFA in the U.S., the council members reported on issues and contract talks at their sites.

After five weeks of negotiations this fall, the Local 14200 membership at Solvay’s Marietta, Ohio, plant ratified a four-year agreement last month that included pay raises, a new drug policy and increases in Sunday pay, vision benefits and the shoe allowance. Labor and management negotiators agreed to settle outstanding grievances before going to arbitration. The local also beat back concessionary language in contracting out, overtime, Sunday pay and work rule changes.

Local 7-765-01 at Chicago Heights discussed its negotiations. The local’s contract expired Nov. 17, and bargaining continues with the members working under the existing agreement.

Two newly organized Solvay workers at the company’s Tulsa, Okla., composite materials plant spoke to the council over the phone. They obtained other USW Solvay contracts and are using them for reference in compiling their own proposals for a first contract. Negotiations are expected to begin in January.

One lingering issue at all the Solvay sites is the company’s revised substance abuse program.  Antonia Domingo from the USW’s Legal Department discussed and answered questions about the company’s drug and alcohol policy. Solvay acknowledged that it has an obligation to negotiate over the policy. 

The council also discussed health and safety issues with Tom Duffy of the USW Health, Safety and Environment Department. He proposed that the locals consider joint training with management over resolving their health and safety issues.

At the end of the meeting, Shinn thanked everyone for their participation and lively discussions.

“This has been a productive meeting,” Shinn said to the nods of several council members. “We had good discussions over the issues affecting our sites, and know what we need to do going forward.”

 

 

 

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