A long, tense period is over for Fulton’s largest private employer, as workers at Huhtamaki approved a new 3 year contract Thursday.
The contract, which is retroactive to February when the old contract expired, contains modest pay increases and maintains medical and pension benefits, according to Richard Knowles of the United Steelworkers Union.
Knowles said that the union agreed to tie an overtime benefit to the company’s attendance program. Workers who are scheduled to work more than 8 or 12 hours in a day receive overtime under the contract. Now, “as long as you have good attendance, you will be paid overtime” for those extra hours, Knowles said.
The union preserved medical benefits by pointing the company to a lower-cost provider, POMCO of Syracuse.
As the talks dragged on and union workers rejected a contract offer, local political leaders began to worry that Huhtamaki’s corporate officials in Finland might opt to close the plant and move the work and 700 union and non-union jobs elsewhere. “It was never a concern as far as closing or relocating,” Knowles said.
“Huhtamaki locally is a good company and we’ve always had a good relationship,” Knowles said. “The problem is the corporation is not in touch with the local aspect of making decisions, making them (instead) on their bottom line.”
Knowles believes there may be some layoffs as a result of the contract because the company used a lot of overtime to build up an inventory in case there was a strike. He thinks any layoffs will be short-term and will end when inventory returns to normal.
“The bottom line is, it worked out. It’s a win/win situation,” he said.