Seven Dow work groups fail to match competitive bids

Published October 4, 2002 in the Midland (MI) Daily News

Beth Medley Bellor

    Union jobs once again are threatened at The Dow Chemical Co.’s Michigan Operations.

    Nine work groups have been undergoing a cost-competitive evaluation since May. Dow spends 30 days going over outside bids in detail with its workers, then gives them 90 days to match the price.

    Of the nine work groups, only two — the road and yard service and yard crane service — met the outside price. They have 11 and five employees, respectively. They were informed of the decision Thursday and will begin to implement their proposal, which includes merging into one group.

    The seven other work groups and the number of employees include the electrician trade, 15; instrument, 33; machinist, five; millwrights, 33; rigger, three; field fabricators, five; and shop fabricators, 13. Collectively, their proposals fell $2 million short of outside bids for the work.

    “Our long-term objective continues to be to take steps to make Michigan Operations globally competitive. As part of addressing some of the site’s financial issues, we are faced with some very tough personnel decisions,” said Gary Veurink, vice president and site leader.

    “Unfortunately, as a site, we continue to be faced with significant performance challenges and we must become globally competitive to attract new business investment,” he added.

    Darrell Debenham, human relations business partner/labor relations manager for Dow, planned to meet with leaders of United Steelworkers Local 12075 at 10 a.m. today. “I think the big goal now is for Dow to try to work with the union to try to minimize the impact on employees,” he said.

    Outsourcing and comparative analysis have weighed heavily on the union for some time. Kent Holsing, Steelworkers vice president, was discouraged by Thursday’s notification.

    “It’s devastating. With what they’ve done, at this point they’ve pretty much wiped out our maintenance,” he said.

    “People took real ownership of their jobs,” he added.

    When noting the union’s concerns, minimizing impact came up but safety was first on Holsing’s list — both of workers and the community. The Steelworkers have maintained there are safety issues with some contractors.

    Outsourcing will begin in 30 days, and affected employees will be moved to other jobs on site. They have six months to choose new permanent positions, Debenham said, and rate retention provides them with their same pay for three years even if the jobs they move to pay less.

    It is possible attrition will allow the absorption of the roughly 110 jobs, he said.

    “If as we go through this transition we have too many people, the people who get laid off would be the most junior employees in the plant,” Debenham said. Those most likely would be BSEs, or basic skilled employees, who typically have worked at Dow for three years or less.

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