September 19, 2018

Pay, health insurance costs driving UTC aerospace strike

PHOTO | Mary White
PHOTO | Mary White
UTC aerospace workers are on strike fighting for better pay and improved health insurance.

Inadequate pay and rising healthcare costs have forced 188 aerospace workers at UTC Aerospace Systems in Cheshire to abandon their posts in protest.

The unionized workers, who are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 62A, launched their strike Monday after negotiations with United Technologies Corp. (UTC) fell through on a new three-year labor contract.

The sides failed to meet agreeable terms after UTC ended several weeks of negotiations with a final offer that included a 2.5 percent pay increase for workers making an average of $19.95 per hour, IAM President Mary White said Wednesday.

But White says the meager offer wasn't enough for production associates in Cheshire, who she said earn far less than their counterparts at other UTC aerospace plants in East Hartford, Windsor Locks and elsewhere.

Plus, White says UTC also failed to offer a package addressing rising copays and payroll deductions for insurance covering vision, prescriptions and other benefits.

Workers pay about $106 per week to cover their family's insurance plans, and the proposed weekly pay increase of $17 was not sufficient to offset those growing costs, she said.

"We felt like the people were still going to be losing and it wasn't right," White said. "People are always taking it and taking it, but people this time actually read the contract."

In a statement, UTC officials said it presented a "fair and equitable contract that is competitive within the region and the industry including wage and retirement plan increases … ."

UTC says it will remain open during the strike and does not expect the protest to impact its customers or suppliers.

Meantime, White said UTC returned to the negotiating table on Tuesday with the exact same proposal the sides failed to agree upon just days ago.

She said the stunt makes it appear as though negotiations are ongoing as UTC attempts to reach a labor agreement before it completes its $30 billion merger with Iowa avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins.

For now, UTC has blocked the entrance to the plant at 250 Knotter Dr. with a steel fence and removed badge clearance to prevent employees from entering the property, White said.

Workers will continue their 24-hour protest with several shifts of people showing their support for better wages and improved healthcare coverage, she said.

Other UTC workers from the area have joined the protest, White said, contributing tents, grills, food and coffee to extend their efforts.

"I hope we go back to work soon," she said. "I'm being optimistic about it and feel they will come back and give us something. Something is better than nothing at all."

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