Union members at the Wabtec plant in Erie voted Wednesday to approve the new, four-year labor agreement reached between UE and the company last week.

Workers cast their votes on whether to ratify the labor agreement using a former Erie County voting machine from 5:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday at the union hall. It follows three information sessions on the contract held by UE Locals 506 and 618 Tuesday at the Bayfront Convention Center.

“The UE workers building Wabtec locomotives are the best in the world,” said Scott Slawson, UE Local 506 President. “The grit and discipline of this workforce has been on display throughout this difficult process, but there is no doubt that these workers will prove their worth with their new employer as they have for generations.

Wabtec said the ratification of the contract benefits the company, workers and community in a statement to Erie News Now:

“We are pleased the UE 506 and 618 members voted to ratify the four-year contract. It is a tribute to the engagement and determination by the negotiating teams to reach a resolution that satisfies the interests of both parties. This ratification is good for the Erie site, our employees, customers and the community. The contract provides good paying jobs and benefits, while taking a step to make the plant more competitive. Now, we can move forward together to position the site for stability and deliver for our customers.”

This is the first contract the unions negotiated with Wabtec since the merger with GE Transportation closed in late February, which kicked off with a nine-day work stoppage and cold days on the picket line.

Union members then went back to work at the plant under a 90-day interim agreement, giving the two sides more time to hammer out a deal on pay, benefits, hours, leave, and health and safety policies.

Just after the clock ran out last week, Wabtec and the unions Thursday reached terms on a tentative, four-year deal. Each side compromised on its original demands after 128 days of negotiations.

The bargaining committee recommended ratification of the deal. It keeps legacy wages for current workers. New hires start at a lower tier, and progress to full wage rates in 10 years. Wabtec committed to bring in new work, equivalent to 100 full-time jobs by the end of the four-year deal, and will keep overtime voluntary, as well as honor for up to five years the recall rights for workers laid off in slow times.

“From day one of this process, our members have been committed to protecting a healthy and safe work environment, while supporting our families and local economy," said Slawson. "This agreement sets a course that will provide Wabtec an opportunity to grow and succeed in Erie County.”

UE Local 506 represents 1,700 hourly workers at the plant.

Key terms of the contract agreement include:

  • Maintain current wage rates for existing Wabtec employees.
  • Ten-year progression to full wage rates for new hire employees.
  • A commitment for new work equivalent to 100 full-time employees by the end of the contract.
  • Continuation of voluntary overtime.
  • Five-year recall rights.
  • Former GE Transportation employees who were on the recall list will receive preferential placement for new hire employment with restoration of seniority.
  • Overtime premium pay after eight hours / double-time after 12 hours.
  • Standard Monday-Friday work week.
  • Up to six weeks of paid vacation, based upon years of service.
  • Up to 5 paid personal days, based on service.
  • Twelve paid holidays.
  • Improved health and welfare benefits, including medical, dental, vision, life and disability benefits.
  • Retirement (401K) plan with a 3% Company contribution plus an additional 3% matching contribution.
  • Four-year agreement.