More than 300 people attended a rally in Falconer, NY as a show of solidarity for more than 130 IAM Local 2105 and National Conference of Firemen and Oilers (NCFO) workers on strike at fusion cast refractory-maker RHI Monofrax.
The workers went on strike September 29 after the Austria-based company refused to continue negotiations and demanded the workers accept draconian concessions and changes to their contract. RHI wants to increase the workers’ percentage of total health care premium costs from 13.5 percent to 18 percent in 2015, 23 percent in 2016 and 28 percent in 2017 – while keeping open the option to impose further increases should the company deem it necessary. The company demanded a freeze in workers’ defined benefit pension plan, plus sweeping changes to seniority rights, the discipline system and work rules. In addition, RHI wants to cut 15 minutes of paid “cleanup time” at the end of the members’ shifts, which amounts to a loss of five hours of pay each month.
“This is another glaring example of outrageous conduct by a foreign-owned company against U.S. workers that they wouldn’t be able to do in their home country,” said District 65 Business Representative Pete Cooney. “Our members are standing strong and deserve the support and gratitude of all trade unionists for fighting against corporate greed at its worst.”
More than 10 labor unions attended the Solidarity rally, showing their support by bringing non-perishable food and cash donations.
“It’s important to show that labor is going to stand together in hard times and in good times,” said Jamestown Area Labor Federation President David Wilkinson. “This is a large strike and it’s very important for us to get it resolved. We haven’t seen a strike of this magnitude in many years.”
The company has brought in non-union workers to replace the union members.
“We demand that RHI Monofrax desist its intransigent stance and sit down with IAM members to negotiate in good faith a fair agreement, concerning health care plans and retirement plans, covering decent and well-deserved conditions and benefits for workers and their families,” wrote Peter Schissler, Federal Executive Secretary for PRO-GE, an Austrian manufacturing union.
RHI Monofrax makes fusion cast refractories primarily used in the glass industry. The federal government buys materials from RHI Monofrax to clean up nuclear waste by converting the waste into glass.