Harley unions vote to grant contract concessions to keep company in state

The three unions representing Harley-Davidson Inc.’s workers at the motorcycle maker’s three Wisconsin plants approved a labor contract that featured a great deal of concessions after the company stated it would move hundreds of jobs out of Wisconsin if the pact wasn’t ratified.
At the Tomahawk plant, this manufactures windshields and other parts for the motorcycles, the 293 members approved the contract 73 percent to 27 percent.
Under the terms of the new contract employee pay is frozen at current rates while hundreds of full-time production jobs will be cut with the work being shifted to part-time employees. Company officials were set to announce their plans on Wednesday, and Tomahawk Mayor Robert J. Lee said he had heard that between 45 to 75 people could lose their jobs at the Tomahawk plant.
Frank Garrou, the president of the Tomahawk local union, said his members were more inclined to vote for the new contract because the loss of so many production jobs in Tomahawk would be felt more in a small town than in a larger city, such as Milwaukee.
“Once they’re gone, they’re gone. That’s what it boiled down to,” he said.
Tomahawk City Councilman Jeff Kahle said that the loss of the full-time positions at the Tomahawk plant will still have an impact on the local economy.
Lee said while the loss of production jobs would be a hit to the local economy, he applauded the workers voting to make the concessions to save as many jobs as possible at the plant.
“I think its great news for Tomahawk and the state as a whole, but there’s going to be some hardships,” Lee said.
At the suburban Milwaukee plant 1,140 union members voted to approve the contract by a 55 to 45 percent margin. Their local president said the closer vote reflected how the members of that union felt they were being threatened by the company to accept the pact or lose their jobs.
The Milwaukee contract includes a one-time lump-sum payment of $12,000 left over from a previous grievance settlement, which goes to all active employees and laid-off workers who were eligible to be called back. Many of the laid off workers reportedly voted for the deal in order to receive the payment.
The approved contract is for seven years starting in April 2012. While it doesn’t guarantee that Harley-Davidson will stay in Wisconsin that whole time, it does mean the company will stop searching for alternate sites.

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