Union Workers Reject Mercury Marine Pact
By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Aug. 23, 2009 12:22 p.m.
Fond du Lac — In a move that could cost them their jobs, Mercury Marine Inc. employees Sunday by a large margin rejected contract concessions that would have included lower wages for new hires and employees called back from layoff.
The final vote was not immediately available. Company officials were not immediately available for comment.
Union members simply could not accept concessions that would have drastically reduced the wages of laid-off employees, some with 30 years of tenure at the company, if they were called back to work, said Mark Zillges, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 1947, which represents the Mercury Marine plant workers.
Mercury, one of the Fox Valley's largest employers, has said that it will move much of its outboard engine manufacturing to Stillwater, Okla., unless its Fond du Lac labor union accepts contract concessions necessary to keep the company competitive.
The proposed concessions included a seven-year wage freeze, about 30% lower wages for new hires and workers called back from layoff, and changes in pension benefits that workers said would have made retirement unaffordable.
As many as 850 manufacturing jobs could be eliminated in Fond du Lac if the company shuts down its operations here over the next three years, according to the company. It would leave from "zero to 200" jobs at the plant, executives said.
It also could mean that Fond du Lac will lose Mercury Marine's world headquarters, which employs about 1,000 people.
A decision on the headquarters, as well as the manufacturing plant, will come yet this summer, according to Mercury President Mark Schwabero.
Sunday's vote was pivotal for the 70-year-old outboard engine manufacturer with deep roots in Fond du Lac.
Although there's still time before for another union vote before the company's proposal expires Aug. 29, the company has said it wasn't interested in further negotiations.
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