Local 727-01 Makes Gains in New Evonik Contract

Local 727-01 members at Evonik Corporation’s Calvert City, Ky., plant gained wage increases and contract language improvements in their new, four-year agreement.

With 100 percent participation in the contract vote, the 33 production and maintenance workers in the unit overwhelmingly ratified the contract on March 20.

Unit President Chris Sheridan said that Evonik was reluctant to give raises this year because the pandemic hurt business. To make up for this shortfall, the membership opted to receive the average of the North American merit increases that Evonik gives its non-represented employees. This turned out to be a 55-cent-per-hour average hourly wage increase for the Local 727-01 unit, which compounds over time.

“It was a bit of a gamble, but we were willing to take the risk,” Sheridan said.

Wage increases for the second and third years of the contract are 2 percent each and 2.5 percent for the fourth year. Other monetary increases include additional money for the yearly boot allowance and call-in pay.

New position created

After four workers retired and Evonik did not replace them, the company decided it wanted to increase flexibility by having operators who could work in both its carbon-based  and aluminum-based catalyst departments at the site, said Local 727-01 negotiating committee member Scott Phillips.

Both sides negotiated a new Operator 5 position that would require these operators to work in both departments as well as in shipping and receiving. The two departments run independently, but the Operator 5 position would be flexible in that it would transfer between departments as production demand requires,  Phillips said.

“We had concerns about the feasibility of this new position because it has always been an issue to get good training,” Sheridan said. “The company developed a brief job description that did not go well in the first contract vote because it was too vague.”

Members voted down the company’s first proposal. The Local 727-01 bargaining committee then developed contract language for the new position’s job description. A 5% percent wage increase over the top operator rate was negotiated for the new position as well.

“The two processes—carbon-based and aluminum-based catalysts—are very different and there is a lot of information to keep current on,” Phillips said. “We wanted the Operator 5 employees to get an increase in compensation for doing the job and staying current on training.”

“It’s definitely going to be a challenging job, and I want people there to make sure they get the training they need,” he added.

There will be four Operator 5 jobs that existing workers can bid on. If those positions are not filled with the existing  work force, Evonik will hire from the outside to fill those jobs.

 “It was a good collaboration between the company and the union to come up with something both could work with. It gives the company the flexibility it needs and compensates someone for that extra work,” Sheridan said.

Better protection

The new agreement also includes protections around decision-making. The unit is a self-directed work force. If a worker makes a mistake, he or she will receive extra training and coaching.

“This language gives everyone a better feeling when making decisions,” Phillips said. “With the current management team, it’s not an issue, but it’s good language to have if we have future managers who want to cause problems.”

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