Reprinted with permission from Daily
Labor Report, No. 171, pp. C-2 et al. (September 4,
Copyright 1997 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.,
Washington D.C. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com
Detroit Edison, UWU Contracts
Underpin Partnership Principles
New five-year contracts
between Detroit Edison and the Utility Workers Union
are expected to underpin a set of “partnership
principles” separately negotiated by the utility
and the union.
The contracts, ratified
May 27 and covering about 3,200 workers, replace a physical
plant contract that was due to expire June 7 and an
officeprofessionaltechnical accord that was not up for
renegotiation until 2002.
The union and the
company decided to open negotiations early, in part,
to show commitment to working in partnership and to
secure a long-term agreement that would enable them
to put the elements of partnership in place in a stable
environment, the parties said.
The partnership involves
a second union, International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers Local 17, and first was undertaken by the utility
and its two unions about three years ago, according
to Richard Martin, Detroit Edison‘s director of
labor relations. It is based on a joint commitment to
a written statement of principles, which includes commitments
to the economic success of the company, the growth of
high- quality jobs for employees, and the institutional
integrity and success of the unions, Martin said. In
committing to the partnership, top-level company and
union officials have established a high degree of trust
and mutual respect, Martin said. But he acknowledged
that “if [the partnership] is to work, it’s
got to be at the employee and first-line supervisor
While the partnership
principles and the bargaining contracts are separate
documents, the partnership implementation phase is being
put in place just as the contracts with UWU take effect.
A new labor- management partnership office, staffed
by 11 workers picked by a joint labor-management leadership
committee, will oversee the implementation.
UWU Local 223 President
Mike Langford described the partnership principles as
a “road map to the new deregulated world”
where Detroit Edison will be doing business in the future.
“The partnership is necessary to get us through
[to that world] by becoming a high-performance company
that will give our employees job security,” he
“In the past
you had managers who managed and workers who did what
they were told,” Langford said. But the goals
of the partnership are intended to create a “fundamental
change in the way the work gets done.” These goals
include creating a work environment that enables employees
to take ownership, responsibility, and pride in their
work, and to participate in decisions that impact their
jobs. Work will be organized using teams responsible
for monitoring their own performance and the cost and
quality of their work product. Employees will be encouraged
to enhance and expand their skills. To help put the
partnership in place, the utility and the unions about
a year ago hired the Washington, D.C., consulting firm,
John Stepp, an associate
with the firm, said he has been impressed by the commitment
to the partnership process shown by company and union
officials. “There is no doubt about the commitment
of both sides,” he said. The partnership “has
been blessed with far-sighted union officials”
who have staked their political leadership on the program.
They have been able to convince their members that they
have not “jumped in bed with management, but that
this [partnership] is the best way to represent the
membership.” Management, for its part, has committed
considerable resources to the program, including paying
the salaries of 11 full-time individuals in the labor-management
partnership office, he said. “This is not a lick
and a promise; this is a serious intent to bring about
organizational transformation to survive in the new
deregulated environment”of the utility industry,
Stepp said. “They are going about this in a very
methodical way, and I believe it will be well executed.”
The new UWU agreements
for both the skilled trades and the officeprofessionaltechnical
units were ratified by better than 80 percent of members,
Langford said. Both contracts took effect June 7 and
expire in June 2004.
Workers receive wage
increases averaging 2.8 percent in each year and a 1
percent lump-sum payment in each of the last two years.
Previously, the average base rate in the skilled trades
unit was $22.82 per hour. In the clericalprofessionaltechnical
unit, hourly wages previously ranged from $15.70 for
a cashier to $28.375 for a senior technician.
Health care coverage
is extended to provide lifetime coverage for surviving
spouses of active or retired employees and for long-term
employees forced to leave their jobs because of disability.
In addition, a prescription drug plan that provided
a 20 percent co-payment on the cost of drugs is modified.
Employees now will pay a flat $5 for a generic drug
prescription and $10 for brand name drugs.
The contracts also
change a pension plan to allow employees at least age
58 with 30 years of service to retire with full benefits
and increase an early retirement supplemental allowance.