Bitter 18-Month Labor Dispute Ends At Indiana CU

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Members of the Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 1 voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract proposal from Madison County FCU and end a bitter 18-month bargaining process.

The three-year pact will roll back the health insurance payments included in an earlier contract proposal; grant workers 3% raises retroactive to the May 2002 end of the last contract; add dental and vision care to health benefits; and expand retirement benefits.

"We picked up some new benefits that we didn't have before that we can build on," said James Hensley, chief negotiator for the union, which represents workers at as many as a dozen area credit unions.

The 27 members of the bargaining unit for the $65-million credit union will receive lump-sum payments in the next few weeks of as much as $1,700, representing the raises, retroactive to last May, and year-end bonuses for 2002.

"There will be some pretty nice lump sum payments," said Hensley.

The protracted labor dispute included a four-week picket of the union-sponsored credit union in December, the return of workers after they were threatened with replacement, then the forced ouster of the credit union's manager, Cheryl Lohman, after she was targeted by the union as the main obstacle to a settlement.

The major victory on the contract came on provisions for health care coverage. The credit union, which pays for all health care premiums, proposed assessing a portion of the premiums to employees if the costs increased more than 20% a year. The new contract will retain the old policy of having the credit union pay all costs, no insignificant benefit in a time when premiums often rise by double-digit amounts.

Under the new pay schedule the hourly pay, retroactive to May 2002 will be: $14.80 for loan officers; $12.90 for head tellers, branch assistants, loan clerks, loan collectors, and accounting assistants; $11.70 for member service representatives and tellers; and $10.40 for part-timers. Those scales were raised an average of 3% a year for each category.

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