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Nippon Paper

Union-represented extruder employees at Nippon Dynawave Packaging’s Longview paper mill ratified a six-year contract with the company this week after nearly seven months of negotiations.

But union officials said only 57% of the nearly 65-member group said yes to the deal, adding that the contract fails to address some of the group’s concerns about “quality of life” in the workplace.

“I believe that is what drove the low approval of this (contract),” said Jim Anderson, representative for the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 633.

Representatives with NDP were not immediately available for comment.

The contract, which takes effect immediately, covers 67 extruder employees at the mill. Local 633 also represents about 100 paperboard workers, which are covered under a separate contract. And more workers are covered under a third contract between NDP and AWPPW Local 580.

The new contract provides a 15% pay raise over its 6-year term, including a 2% boost this year, Anderson said. This year’s raise retroactively covers dates from the previous contract’s expiration in April.

The union had requested retroactive pay earlier in negotiations, and in September members down-voted a contract offer that did not include that feature.

“We bargained this contract well past expiration (on April 5) … and we were able to get the company to pay the first year’s wage increase retroactively back to that date,” Anderson said. “That was kind of a big deal for the people who work down there.”

NDP also agreed to exclude a “flow of work” measure it had proposed earlier in negotiations, Anderson said. That language would have allowed the company to violate seniority rights, but the union members “were successful in getting the company off its proposal,” Anderson said

However, the contract still leaves some of the union’s quality of workplace concerns unaddressed, including the addition of transfer rights to the extruders’ contract and “staffing issues,” Anderson said.

Without transfer rights, employees cannot switch jobs into other departments, so they are “stuck” in the jobs they were hired into, Anderson said. He did not elaborate further on the nature of the staffing problem.

“Economically, this is a good contract,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to address some of those other issues that were very important to members … The union plans on continuing to try and work through those issues while the contract is in place.”

The union and the company started contract negotiations in March, and union members unanimously approved a strike authorization vote in August. The union never went on strike, and Anderson said the union-management relationship “should be O.K.”

“This membership stood together very well and it’s through their efforts and their actions that were taken during these negotiations that allowed us to get the contract,” Anderson said. “We are really proud of this membership.”

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