Evonik Units Negotiate Contract Improvements at Two Sites

Two Evonik units ratified their contracts in February, signing deals that included wage raises and contract language improvements. A third unit is still negotiating.

Local 7237-05 in Weston, Mich., began talks on Jan. 11, and the contract expired Feb. 1. After rejecting the company’s two last, best and final offers, the membership ratified a three-year tentative agreement on Feb. 9. It covers 25 workers in production operations, maintenance, the lab and shipping.

The contract, which runs from Feb. 1, 2021 through Feb. 1, 2024, contains improved wages and increases in the allowances for safety equipment, meals and maintenance tools. Maintenance workers at the top rate get an extra 25-cents an hour provided they get certified in three types of welding.

The new agreement requires the company to give more advanced notice if operations are curtailed during a holiday. If an event arises that is beyond the control of Evonik—such as an act of God or power failure—the company shortened the number of hours from 18 to 16 that a person on a 12-hour shift would have to work in a day.

Management and the local union committee will meet, at either party’s initiative, to determine if a new employee can hire in at a higher wage scale if they have additional education, training or experience. The same applies for an existing employee bidding on another position. Both parties agreed to a half-hour new employee orientation session with a labor and company representative to explain the contract and the value of labor-management cooperation.

Calvert City agreements

One of the keys to these successes was close contact between the Evonik units, said Glenn Tucker, president of Amalgamated Local 727, which includes two Evonik units in Calvert City, Ky.  Because the Weston unit was able to keep them informed, the Calvert City units were able to better anticipate and respond to the company’s demands.

Negotiations began Feb. 8 for the 28-member Local 727-00 unit that represents production operators, maintenance and material handlers. The contract expired Feb. 14.

The membership rejected Evonik’s first offer on Feb. 17, and the bargaining committee returned to the table.

“By the will of the people, the company changed their stance on a few issues such as overtime, pay language for sixth and seventh days, and dropped their demand for maintenance in each unit to work in each other’s plant,” Tucker said.

On Feb. 20, members ratified the adjusted three-year contract, which runs from Feb. 15, 2021 through Feb. 12, 2024. Workers will get a 2% wage increase each year of the remaining contract.

The unit also elected to forgo a signing bonus the first year, in favor of a bonus that tracks the merit increases management receives. Evonik’s corporate board of directors determines this June the percentage merit increase for its North American operations based on the company’s 2020 financial results.  The unit determined this system, which will fold money into hourly workers’ base pay, would result in more money.

Other contract improvements include a 90-cent shift differential for 12-hour shifts that run from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.; an increase in call-in and holiday pay; an improvement in the safety shoe allowance and movement of the letters of understanding into the contract.

“The negotiating committee did a great job, and negotiations were cordial,” Tucker said. “We have a good membership. We listened to what they said, returned to the table to make changes and they voted it in.”

Finding solutions

Local 727-01 negotiators started bargaining Feb. 22 for their contract, which expired Feb. 28. The 37 production and maintenance workers in the unit are working under a contract extension through March 21. Both sides will meet again on March 18.

Tucker said the younger workers led the charge to reject Evonik’s offer on March 1. “They know they’re essential to the plant and worked through the pandemic. We’re trying to find solutions to get to a contract,” he said. “The group is staying strong and united.”

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