Striking Freightliner Machinists Win Some Job Security

Clause added to proposed contract includes job security, should the unit be sold, but workers still face cuts in retiree health benefits and mandatory overtime provisions.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Striking Freightliner machinists won some job security but still face cuts in retiree health benefits and mandatory overtime provisions in a contract to be voted on Monday, union leaders say.

A strike that began Tuesday was to continue through the weekend, pending the vote by 670 members of Local 1005 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

A clause hammered out Thursday makes the contract binding on a new owner should Freightliner sell Western Star Trucks, a brand manufactured exclusively in Portland, said Joe Kear, business representative for the union.

The new offer also includes a company pledge to negotiate severance pay should it close the Portland plant, he said.

''We have job security language for people, and that was one of the major concerns of our members,'' Kear said. ''They wanted to address the security of their jobs and the security of the plant.''

Kear said the union's bargaining committee recommends approving the proposal, as it did Monday when members rejected the company's previous offer. Kear said the company called this proposal its last, best and final offer.

''It means we don't expect to see anything better if we don't approve the offer,'' he said.

Union members have said they're upset with the company's previous proposal to end retiree health care for many members and to require up to 10 hours a week of mandatory overtime, but those provisions remain in the company's latest proposal.

Freightliner has built trucks in Portland for six decades. The nation's largest truckmaker now employs about 24,000, including 2,700 at its Portland headquarters and 1,000 at its Portland production plant, which makes 38 military and Western Star-brand trucks a day.

In recent years, under DaimlerChrysler ownership, the company has shifted production to plants in North Carolina and Mexico, where it says labor and freight costs are lower. The company is building a second Mexican plant, to open in 2009.

Freightliner's latest proposal gives machinists' raises of $1.70 an hour over three years and cuts employee health insurance premium contributions.


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