On April 3rd-5th, about 40 union representatives from IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), USW (United Steel Workers), IAM (International Association of Machinists), IUE-CWA (International Union of Electrical Workers-Communication Workers of America) and UAW (United Auto Workers) met in Atlanta to discuss their cooperation and current affairs at Siemens.
Harald Kern and Dirk Linder from IG Metall also took part in the meeting as well as Todd Anderson from AFL-CIO.
The meeting was chaired by the Steering Committee of the five US/Canadian unions, which consists of Randy Middleton (IBEW), John Shinn (USW), Craig Norman (IAM), Mark Haasis (UAW) and Todd Viars (IUE-CWA).
The represented locations were:
the Dresser Rand plants in Olean, Painted Post and Wellsville (all New York)
the turbine service centers in Houston and Trenton (New Jersey)
the switchboard factory in Grand Prairie, Texas
the motor factory in Norwood, Ohio
the Healthineers (Healthcare Diagnostics) site in Mishawaka, Indiana
the Healthineers service centers in Seattle/Portland (Washington/Oregon) and New York
the former Rolls-Royce plant in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
the Alstom plant at Hornell, New York.
On the first day of the meeting, HR management representatives took part in the meeting. These were:
Francis Argentieri, Head of Labour and Employee Relations, Michael Cseplo, Director of Labour and Employee Relations and Rebecca Luttrell, HR Siemens Healthineers.
Mr. Argentieri explained the ongoing structural changes at Siemens. These have up to now concerned the Healthcare (now: “Healthineers”) and the Wind Power and Renewables Divisions. The next step will be the merger of the Mobility Division with Alstom. He then gave some information about each division of Siemens in the US.
Mrs. Luttrell completed his statements for Siemens Healthineers. Mr. Argentieri then gave an information about the latest conclusion of collective agreements with the unions at different locations and about major changes in the company. These also includes some plant closures and job cuts.
In the discussion, there were – besides questions regarding the chances of the Wind Power business in the US, the “Healthineers” business and difficulties with the paycheck procedure – two major issues:
- several union representatives addressed the urgent need for apprentice and general vocational training programs at their facilities. Especially the factories are running out of skilled workforce.
- the union representatives of the Trenton and Wellsville plants, that have been announced to be closed, reclaimed for their employees the possibility to apply for jobs at other Siemens facilities in the US. This possibility has been denied so far.
Mr. Argentieri answered, that these applications would be accepted. This has not been communicated at the concerned locations so far. The training and apprentice programs at Siemens in the US follow the needs of each location. There is no systematic approach to this issue, which is unsatisfactory for the union representatives.
The members of the Steering Committee gave statements as representatives of their unions on the Memorandum of Understanding, that the five unions IBEW, USW, IAM, IUE-CWA and UAW have concluded with Siemens for the US in November 2016. They agree that the agreement has already helped the unions and the Siemens management to improve their relationship, but they also see more need for training and information about the agreement on the management´s and the unions´ sides. Mr. Argentieri agreed to this opinion.
Todd Anderson (AFL-CIO) presented the AFL-CIO´s activities in the field of vocational training. He specially emphasized that the training of the Community Colleges cannot substitute vocational training provided by the unions in cooperation with companies. Up to now, Siemens is still reluctant to any cooperation with the US unions in this field. Mr. Argentieri said, a cooperation is not impossible.
John Shinn (USW) mentioned the training program provided in the state of New York. This could be useful for Siemens, too. Several union representatives underlined the need for skilled workforce and the difficulties, they see to recruit skilled workers. The Canadian union representatives see similar problems in Canada.
Harald Kern (Central Works Council of Siemens Germany; IG Metall) gave a report about the current developments at Siemens. He especially mentioned the changes in the structure of the company and the difficulties in the divisions PG and PD:
He also emphasized the importance of digitalization in all business fields and workplaces and underlined the need for cooperation of the unions everywhere at Siemens to protect a good cooperate culture, which provides fair working conditions for the employees.
Dirk Linder gave an overview over the global union network of Siemens and some information on the latest collective agreement of IG Metall in Germany.
The union representatives agreed, that it would be important to get a direct contact to the decision makers of Siemens in the US. There was also a strong criticism of the decision of Siemens to transfer work from unionized facilities in New York, New Jersey and Texas especially to the up to now not-unionized plant in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The union representatives reported about their local affairs. The PG Service shop in Trenton, New Jersey, was announced to be closed. The same situation is at the Siemens Government Technologies factory in Wellsville, New York, because this business sector was sold to Curtis Wright. In both cases, applications from employees of these two facilities for other jobs at Siemens in the US have been rejected.
Several union representatives, especially from the locations in Olean, Painted Post (both New York), Norwood (Ohio) and Mishawaka (Indiana) reported about the difficulties to find skilled workforce and the need for training programs. In Grand Prairie refuses to enter a training program offered by IBEW although there are problems with the qualification of new workers.
Harald Kern gave some information about the projected merger of the Siemens Mobility Division with Alstom.
The US unions discussed the ongoing attempts to organize more Siemens employees at Siemens in the US. This is also an issue at Canada, especially in Ontario.
(Report: Dirk Linder)