News: Bayer and Union Reach Tentative Agreement in Berkeley

A new agreement covering 420 pharmaceutical workers at the Bayer HealthCare plant in Berkeley, California has been reached following two months of difficult negotiations. The proposal includes better job security measures, controls on health care insurance costs, and annual raises of more than 3% during four-year contract. The proposed agreement is subject to a membership ratification vote that is scheduled for October 12.

[PharmaManufacturing.com Editor's note: Bayer has indicated that it will refrain from commenting until the October 12 ratification vote. For information on the two sides positions, see our previous interviews with Bayer and a union rep.]

“Better job security was a key concern for both workers and the community – and this agreement meets that goal,” said Fred Pecker, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 6.

Concerns about job security increased earlier this year when Bayer announced plans to close their nearby facility in Emeryville, CA – a move that will destroy hundreds of good jobs. And two years ago, Bayer threatened to move jobs from the Berkeley plant, but reversed course after politicians secured tax breaks worth millions of dollars for the German-based pharmaceutical giant. Pecker said local elected officials supported the push for better job security in the new agreement, including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, California State Senator Lonnie Hancock, Assembly member Nancy Skinner, Assembly member Sandre Swanson, and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee. Rising health care insurance rates were a key concern raised by Bayer workers when negotiations started on July 25. The new agreement will freeze the employees’ share of premiums at 18%, but Pecker said the government must do more to protect working families with a “Medicare for all” plan that covers everyone.

Wages for workers in Berkeley will increase 3.1% during each of the first three years and 3.2% in the 4th year.

Bayer workers won real improvements despite the recession because they organized and were willing to take action.  “Like so many companies today, Bayer is making billions of dollars – but getting them to share some of it with workers just doesn’t happen without organizing, action and pressure from the inside and outside, ” said Local 6 Business Agent Donal Mahon. The union’s elected negotiating committee was credited by Mahon and Pecker for their hard work during the past two months of difficult negotiations. They also thanked the Council of Bayer Workers – a network of unions from other Bayer facilities in the U.S. that included the International Association of Machinists (IAM), International Chemical Workers Union (ICWU/UFCW), United Steelworkers, plus the AFL-CIO. Critical international help was provided by the Bayer workers’ union in Germany (IG BCE), and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions.

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