A Plant Grows Near the 'Burgh

Bobcat Workers in Gwinner, N.D., Approve New Contract

Sat December 16, 2006 - Midwest Edition
James Macpherson - ASSOCIATED PRESS



BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) Bobcat Co. workers have approved a new four-year contract at the Gwinner plant, in southeastern North Dakota that gives them a pay raise and a larger company contribution to their health care plan, a union leader said.

Tom Ricker, president of United Steelworkers union Local 560, said 818 union members voted Dec. 2 at the North Sergeant Activity Center in Gwinner. He would not disclose the vote.

“Overall, most felt it was a fair contract,” Ricker said.

Company officials did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment

Negotiations began in November. The contract expired at midnight on Dec. 1.

Ricker said union negotiators asked for more pay, lower out-of-pocket health insurance expenses and a cut in mandatory overtime.

Ricker said the new contract calls for a 12.6 percent pay increase over the next four years. The company also agreed to increase contributions to workers’ health care plans at a rate of 17 percent more the first year, and 7 percent in each of the three following years, he said.

Randall Edison, treasurer of the union, which represents approximately 1,030 workers in Gwinner, said mandatory overtime is still required under the new contract.

“Naturally, it would be nice not to work so much overtime, but all and all, I think we’re happy with what’s in the contract,” he said.

Bobcat workers in Bismarck went on strike for two weeks in October in a dispute over wages and health care costs. United Steelworkers Local 566 also sought changes in the company’s mandatory overtime and sick-leave policies.

The plant continued limited operations during the strike, using salaried employees and the strike ended after a new contract offer was approved.

Gwinner union employees rejected a contract in 1991 and went on strike for approximately a week, Ricker said.

The new contract at that plant is in effect until Dec. 3, 2010.

“It makes the future a little more secure,” Edison said.

West Fargo-based Bobcat, known for its skid steer loaders, is a unit of Ingersoll Rand Co. Ltd. The plants in Bismarck and Gwinner make machinery for light construction. Bobcat employs more than 2,600 people in North Dakota.