February 1, 2013

IBEW rejects Sappi contract setting stage for strike vote

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — Electrical workers at Sappi Fine Paper voted against a contract Thursday night, setting the stage for a possible strike.

Members of the machinists union at Sappi agreed to the contract.

“The next step for us is to schedule another meeting with the members and at that meeting they’ll have the opportunity to vote strike or not,” said David Boudreau, of Fairfield, president of the  Interntational Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1768.

Boudreau wouldn’t say what the vote was. A meeting on the strike vote hasn’t been set.
The union represents 59 electrical instrumentation workers at Sappi.

David Sullivan, of Richmond, business agent for District 4 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said his 74 members will go back to work.

“We’ve accepted the contract and we’ll move on tomorrow with a new contract and everything is back to status quo,” Sullivan said.

Joanna Rieke, manager of corporate communications at Sappi, did not return a phone call and an email for comment Thursday night.

Boudreau wouldn’t specify what issues union members had issues with.

“There’s quite a few things in the contract for changes,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know which ones my members would prioritize as being the major points of why they rejected the contract. They’ll be telling me some more about what they don’t like and what would be acceptable.”

Sullivan said the three-year contract calls for a 2 percent pay increase each year with improvements in short term disability and bereavement pay.

“It’s a pretty mature contract,” he said. “It’s good to get a contract and get people back to work. They have stability for the next three years.”

The vote was taken about 7 p.m. Thursday at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall on Waterville Road.
Members from the United Steel Workers Union were on hand for the meeting to express support, but they were not voting Thursday.

Both voting unions met at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Sullivan said union workers had the contract for two days to review all the changes that were made.

“The company will be notified that the offer was turned down and the company realizes that after that there is the potential for work stoppage and there will be a strike vote,” Boudreau said. “The contract language speaks to a 10-day notice that we have to provide to the company to have both parties convene and talk about what the issues are in hopes to resolve it before there is a work stoppage.”
Sappi is the largest maker of coated paper in North America.

There are about 800 employees at the Somerset mill in Skowhegan, including 170 salaried employees.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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