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General Electric Reaches Labor Agreements With 2 Unions Ahead of Contract Expiration

June 16, 2003|From Associated Press

General Electric Co. and the two largest labor unions representing its workers reached tentative agreements Sunday on new four-year contracts, hours before the previous contracts were set to expire.

The company and the unions, which could have gone on strike beginning June 26 under the contracts that expired at midnight, said the proposed agreements would improve wages, pensions and benefits.

Terms of the new contracts were not released. The accords would apply to about 24,400 workers. Ratification votes were expected within two weeks.

The agreements would cover GE employees who work at plants that make aircraft engines, appliances, locomotives, medical equipment, power turbines and other products.

Despite difficult issues involved in the negotiations, including the sluggish economy and rising health-care costs, "everyone at the table remained focused on doing the right thing for our employees and GE," said William J. Conaty, GE's senior vice president for corporate human resources.

Thousands of GE employees walked off the job for two days in January to protest higher health-care co-payments that took effect Jan. 1, and the unions worried that the company would seek an additional shift of health-care costs onto employees in the new contract.

Fairfield, Conn.-based GE reported in April that first-quarter profit rose 20%. The conglomerate earned $3 billion, or 30 cents per share, for the three-month period that ended March 31.

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