Mercury Marine Union Gets 3rd Chance At Vote

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- A day after it looked clear that 850 jobs making boat engines in eastern Wisconsin were moving to Oklahoma, Mercury Marine and its union said Tuesday workers would again vote on a package of wage and benefit concessions.

The company has repeatedly said it needs the concessions to keep the jobs in Fond du Lac, its corporate headquarters.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the vote will take place Thursday and Friday.

Mike King, a union spokesman, said company executives and union leaders met Tuesday "through the efforts of state and local officials" and reached what he called a supplement with some clarifications regarding the concessions.

"The company will accept the outcome of the vote. It is a real vote," King said. "I am not going to try and judge how it is going to turn out."

Mercury Marine President Mark Schwabero said the company extended the deadline for the concession package to Thursday.

"Hundreds of employees expressed a desire to voice their true feelings, and that's something we can't ignore," he said in a statement issued in Fond du Lac.

The union has said its membership overwhelmingly rejected the deal in an Aug. 23 vote. Mercury Marine characterized the proposal as its "best and final" offer.

Mercury Marine, the world's largest manufacturer of boat and recreational marine engines, said the concessions did not involve pay cuts, but the union said workers were asked to give up 2 percent raises in each of the last two years of their current contract that expires in 2012. The concessions also called for lower wages for new hires and workers called back from layoffs and changes in work rules and pension benefits.

The average hourly wage at the Fond du Lac plant now is about $20, the union said.

The union scrapped plans Sunday for a last-minute, second vote on a new contract after the company said it wouldn't honor ballots cast after midnight Saturday -- the deadline for pulling the offer off the table.

On Monday, company spokesman Steve Fleming said the final decision on the jobs had been made and it was "time for everybody to move on." The company had said it would move the jobs to a nonunion plant in Stillwater, Okla., with about 400 workers.

King declined comment Tuesday on details of the clarifications in the supplement or what led to another vote the company would accept.

Schwabero said Tuesday's developments followed several days of encouragement from state and local officials to find a "process for a revote on the company's best and final contract proposal." The deal has not changed from Aug. 23, he said.

After the first vote, Gov. Jim Doyle said the state offered an "aggressive package" to keep Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac. Doyle said the incentives were based on the company meeting certain milestones, including creating and retaining nearly 2,700 jobs and staying in Fond du Lac for 12 years.

Some union leaders said those details, had they been made public earlier, could have affected the vote, in providing some information about job security at the plant. The union had feared the jobs would move no matter what happened.

Mercury Marine, founded in 1939 as Kiekhaefer Corp. of Cedarburg, Wis., also has manufacturing operations in Tulsa, South Carolina, Florida, Mexico, Japan, United Kingdom, Belgium and China. It is a subsidiary of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Corp.

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