Labor Contract Clears Way For Expansion

Employees at Penford Products—manufacturer of starches for paper, textiles and food products—ratify contract two years early.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Workers at an eastern Iowa manufacturer of starches for paper, textiles and food products have ratified a three-year contract two years early, giving the company labor security as it plans an expansion.
The ratification on Thursday of a contract with Penford Products Corp. extends the current contract for about 150 workers from 2009 through 2012.
The early ratification suggests a reversal of labor friction that led to a 78-day strike at the starch production facility in 2004.
Details of the contract extension were not disclosed, but David Holmes, president of Local 100 of the Bakery Confectionary Tobacco and Grain Millers Union, said the changes were generally limited to improvements in the economic provisions that were well received by workers.
''It was a good offer for the union with some improvement to the key areas that our members have accepted and now have the same kind of security for planning that the company also does for running their business,'' Holmes said.
Penford Products President and General Manager Tim Kortemeyer said the company is in the advanced stages of planning to add ethanol to the plant's product mix and other growth.
''We want to keep that ball rolling and we don't want to see any derailment of that,'' Kortemeyer said. ''The ratification of the proposal reflects a desire by all employees to build a stronger future for the industrial business and reinforce the sustainability of the Cedar Rapids facility.''
Labor relations at the plant have improved since the 2004 strike, Holmes said. He could not recall another instance in which the union had extended a contract so early in the contract cycle.
Penford Products is a division of Centennial, Colo.-based Penford Corp.
The Cedar Rapids facility is Penford's largest manufacturing plant.
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