NIPSCO union workers taking ratification vote

2014-06-02T14:00:00Z 2014-06-02T19:11:22Z NIPSCO union workers taking ratification voteBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

Tentative 5-year contracts covering 2,000 NIPSCO union employees with raises averaging a little more than 3 percent per year have been reached after months of negotiations.

The contracts will now be put to a vote of the membership with informational packets and ballots going out to members by mail, according to USW Local 12775 President Vernon Beck.

USW Local 12775 represents 1,600 NIPSCO operations and other employees. Local 13796, representing 400 office and technical workers at NIPSCO, also reached a tentative contract.

"I think we did very well, because the company has been doing very well," said Local 13796 President Karen Bryan. "And so there was no reason four us to take concessions."

NIPSCO CEO Jim Stanley put out a statement on Monday in response to a Times inquiry about the tentative contracts.

“Strong relationships with all our employees play a significant role in our success,” Stanley said. “Thanks to input from both leadership and the union, we were able to develop a tentative agreement that addressed issues important to both parties."

Beck said the company fought for and obtained a more restrictive bidding process and broader exemptions for paying overtime in the event of call outs of employees.

The contracts for both locals are generally the same on major wage and benefit protections. Each has some clauses tailored to the work members of the bargaining unit actually do at the company.

In one of the most significant gains for union members, the two-tiered vacation system initiated under the 2004 contracts was eliminated, with everyone going back on the schedule that existed before that time, Beck said. The union also beat back company proposals to eliminate vested pensions and retiree health care for all new hires, he said.

Beck said the pay packages being dished out to company executives and $3.4 million in non-compete payments for former NIPSCO CEO Jimmy Staton had union leaders taking a hard line in negotiations.

For Local 13796, one of the most important wins was having seniority for part-timers determined by hiring date rather than hours worked, according to Bryan.

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