Union to vote on 3-year contract

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RUMFORD – Local 900 employees will decide next week whether to accept a three-year negotiated contract with NewPage Corp. that offers, among other things, a 2 percent raise during each of the next three years.

Gary Hemingway, president of Local 900 and a member of negotiating team, said the union’s negotiating committee and executive board are neither endorsing nor rejecting the proposed contract.

“We’re just trying to inform the membership,” he said Tuesday afternoon of a monthly membership meeting set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the union hall that will provide answers to employee questions.

The vote takes place from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at the union hall.

The contract, if approved by the union’s membership, will extend through June 30, 2010.

The Local 900 membership overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by the mill in March to extend the existing contract by a 306-93 vote.

The proposed contract was the result of five days of negotiating with mill representatives in June, Hemingway said. The proposal includes:

• 2 percent wage increases for each of the three years;

• an additional dollar for each of the three years toward employee pensions;

• a $10 per week increase for each of the three years for accident and sickness pay;

• increases in the employee share of health insurance premiums to include 5 percent of the premium through Dec. 31, 2007, 10 percent from Jan. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2008, 15 percent from Jan. 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, at which time the percentage will jump to 20 percent. Now, a family plan calls for an average payment of $20 per month.

• an increase in the company match for 401K employee contributions, from 6 percent that will be company matched by 3 percent, to 5 percent company matched by 4 percent.

• a slight increase in the safety shoe allowance;

• elimination of the requirement that employees must use all vacation and sick time before they can take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act;

• a requirement that although the mill can change the health care company, it cannot change the amount of coverage provided; and,

• permission to apply safety voucher points as donations to the union’s scholarship fund.

Hemingway said if the proposal does not pass, negotiations will begin again.

Attempts to reach a NewPage spokesman were unsuccessful.

About 800 of the mill’s 1,100 employees are members of Local 900, United Steel Workers, AFL-CIO-CLC.

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