Unions vs. productivity at Wabtec

Unions vs. productivity at Wabtec

A spokeswoman for Wabtec, the corporate moniker for Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp., says striking union workers at its newly acquired Erie locomotive plant (formerly owned by General Electric) are rejecting overtime pay of more than $50 an hour and $70 an hour, reports GoErie.com.

About 1,700 union members (of Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) struck last week after Wabtec – now based in Wilmerding but about to relocate to Pittsburgh — took over the facility, complaining primarily about a two-tiered wage system that would pay existing workers what they’ve been paid and maintain their benefits but cut them for newly hired and recalled workers.

The union, according to the report, “is particularly concerned about the company’s ability to schedule overtime with little restriction. The company has said overtime would only be scheduled to meet the needs of customers.”

Customers – those folks who pay the bills at a facility the new owners maintain isn’t very competitive. Wages and benefits, of course, are a cost. The less competitive a company is the fewer orders it can land. The fewer orders it can land, the less profit it makes. The less profit it makes, the less it can pay its workers.

The more competitive a company is, the more orders it can land. The more orders it can land, the greater profits it can earn. The greater profits it can earn, the more it can pay workers whose productivity helped to make it more competitive.

It’s The Union Cycle vs. The Productive Cycle.

This is not a difficult concept to grasp. For most. A federal mediator now is involved. Let’s see what grasp of reality the mediator has.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).