Westinghouse Opens Union Talks
Talks between Westinghouse Electric and representatives of about 20,800 workers opened Tuesday with union leaders seeking a share of improved profits and the company seeking relief from “heavy loads of employment costs.”
An immediate settlement was not expected. The current three-year agreement, patterned after a three-year pact now being renegotiated for 80,000 union members at General Electric, expires at midnight, July 21.
William H. Bywater, chairman of a joint union bargaining committee and president of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Technical, Salaried and Machine Workers, said Westinghouse employees are entitled to share in after-tax profits of $1.4 billion reported since the current contract was settled, 30 minutes before a strike deadline in 1982.
“Awash in unprecedented profits, in 1984 the company awarded its top five executives more than $5 million in pay and bonuses,” Bywater said during the opening session at a suburban motel. “IUE members, who helped create this remarkable prosperity, are entitled to share in . . . this embarrassment of riches.”
Lee Bellmer, director of union relations for Westinghouse, said: “While we are more profitable overall and some of our businesses are making good profits, others are losing money and are struggling to survive. Still other businesses are headed for trouble in the future, unless we can take some corrective action.”
Bywater also asked for improved pension benefits and greater job security for Westinghouse employees.
Westinghouse officials have blamed high labor costs for closings and cutbacks at a number of its manufacturing facilities.
The talks cover 8,500 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 5,200 from the IUE and 1,600 from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. Ten other unions representing about 5,500 employees also sit at the bargaining table with the leading members of the GE-Westinghouse Coordinated Bargaining Committee.
Westinghouse, the nation’s second-largest electrical equipment manufacturer behind GE, opened negotiations last week with the 7,700-member Federation of Westinghouse Independent Salaried Unions.
Bellmer said top managers at Westinghouse are “deeply committed” to the notion that the company’s various business divisions are independent and must control wages and benefits according to their individual circumstances.