The union local representing extruder employees at Nippon Dynawave Packaging’s Longview paper mill rejected the company’s latest contract offer with a near unanimous vote of its membership this week.
Jim Anderson, representative for the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Works Local 633, said 94% of the union’s members voted on the offer Tuesday and Wednesday. Every single ballot cast was “no,” he said.
“The membership is definitely attempting to get a fair and equitable offer from the company. They are pretty united in that,” Anderson said. “This is a good group standing together to get what they feel they deserve.”
NDP spokesman Brian Wood said the company will “continue to negotiate in good faith with the union, as we have in the past.” He declined to share the details of the contract offer, and he did not provide any additional comments relating to negotiations.
Local 633 represents 67 employees in the paper mill’s extruder department. (Other workers at NDP are represented by AWPPW Local 580, which is covered under a separate contract.)
The company and the union have been negotiating a new contract for the extruder employees since March. The two sides are at odds over “quality of life” in the workplace, Anderson said.
“One of the big issues with membership is the small group of (extruder) employees down there do not have transfer rights around the mill site, like the rest of the employees (at the mill) do,” Anderson said.
Without transfer rights, extruder employees cannot switch to jobs into other departments.
“(It) doesn’t afford them an opportunity to work in a job they would like to do more. It stops them from having the opportunity to perhaps make more money,” Anderson said, adding that “if you are hired into the extruder contract, you’re stuck.”
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Wood confirmed that the extruder employees do not currently have transfer rights, which means they can’t move jobs within the company.
Other quality of life concerns include staffing, a chance to earn retro-pay since the previous contract expired and recent rises in the employees’ cost for health insurance, Anderson said.
The union and company resolved a disagreement over “one of the bigger contentious issues” relating to “flow of work” discussions, Anderson said, though he declined further comment due to the complexity of the matter.
The company’s contract offer didn’t contain any of the other “major items” highlighted by the union, Anderson said. He declined to share the specific terms of the offer.
“We were able to lose the company off of one of the bigger contentious issues. But the rest of the offer was still substandard. It wasn’t good enough for the members to vote for,” Anderson said.
Although they forwarded the members’ vote to NDP Tuesday night, Local 633 hadn’t heard back from the company as of Wednesday afternoon, Anderson said.
Anderson and Wood both noted that there currently are no further negotiations scheduled.
In August Local 633 unanimously passed a strike authorization vote, which allows union leadership to call for a strike but does not guarantee a strike will happen. If the union did choose to strike, it would not affect employees covered under other contracts, such as the Local 680 members.
“I wouldn’t say (a strike) is imminent, but there is a possibility,” Anderson said. “We hopeful we can get back to the table and continue this bargain.”