FALCONER – The employee strike at RHI Monofrax in Falconer is now into its fourth week.
The striking workers at the manufacturing plant include 120 members of the Service Employees International Union and 14 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.
On Monday, SEIU local chief steward Karl Krauss told WRFAf that union officials met with management for over four hours on Saturday, Oct. 18, but the new offer was not even close to what workers are seeking. As a result, the two sides were unable to agree to new contract terms and the strike is still underway. Krauss says a federal mediator was also present to help with the negotiation process.
Krauss said the main sticking point is insurance, along with seniority rights. He said company officials want workers to contribute more into their health insurance premiums, while also providing only a small increase in wages to help offset the insurance hike. He also said the company doesn’t want seniority to be a factor during layoffs when business slows down, while the union believes seniority needs to be protected.
According to Krauss, the management at RHI Monograx is trying to identify a total of $1,000,000 in annual savings – which is why it’s asking workers to contribute more to healthcare. The company is also offering to buy out the life insurance of 70 retired workers at $6,000 piece.
Krauss said that Saturday’s meeting was the first one devoted to contract negotiations. He said a meeting also took place on Wednesday, Oct. 15, but that meeting was intended to serve as an informational meeting with insurance providers. No actual negotiations took place.
As of Monday night, there was not follow-up meeting scheduled. Krauss said he feels management and union officials may meet again later in the month or in early November. He said Nov. 15 will mark the seventh week of the strike, which would then allow for workers to file for unemployment benefits. He said it is likely the two sides will meet again prior to that date to try and reach an agreement.
As a result the strike will continue. Krauss says other in local labor have been supportive of the strike with a large rally taking place this past Friday. In addition, other labor groups have been offering support by providing food and beverages to the striking workers and Krauss says they are obviously thankful for the support.