News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 22, 2009

Strike: Bemis workers reject contract

Company says contingency plans ‘are prepared and will be implemented’

TERRE HAUTE — Workers from Unite Here Local 1426 at Bemis Co. shifted into strike mode at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Union spokesman Bill Kirby said at about 6 p.m. that negotiations had continued throughout the day.

“The members of Workers Unite Here 1426 have considered the company’s contract offer and have voted overwhelmingly to reject it,” Kirby said in a prepared statement over the telephone Tuesday evening. “The union’s bargaining committee gave the company the opportunity to avert a strike by asking them to modify their proposal. The company has not taken advantage of that opportunity.

“We also asked the company if they’re willing to bargain, to give us a time, a date and a place, and they’ve failed to do so as of right now. We stand prepared to bargain with the company whenever they’re prepared to seriously reconsider their position on several key issues. The key issues are temporary employees, insurance coverage that can be unilaterally changed for the life of the contract, temporary transfers, one-week plant shutdowns up to four times per year and changes in the maintenance job duties and classifications.“

Kirby said workers were prepared to shut the plant down at shift’s end Tuesday.

Bemis Co. spokeswoman Kristine Pavletich addressed the strike in a written e-mail submitted Tuesday afternoon following a Tribune-Star request for comment. “Bemis had hoped to avoid a work stoppage; the package we're offering is more than competitive for the region and industry.”

With regard to contingency plans, “Contingency plans are prepared and will be implemented to continue uninterrupted service to customers,” she wrote.

Both Kirby and Pavletich declined to comment beyond their approved statements.

Union members have been reviewing the company’s proposed contract since last week. Tuesday was the deadline for votes to accept or reject. Membership authorized the union board to strike by an “overwhelming number” if an agreement was not reached by Tuesday, Kirby stated previously.

Local 1426 currently has about 735 members, according to information provided by Kirby.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or

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