UPDATE: Honeywell lockout continues amid UAW contract dispute

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The Honeywell lockout continues after negotiations between the company and UAW Local 9 fell through again on Wednesday.

According to Honeywell, the two sides sat down on Wednesday with a mediator but could not reach an agreement.

"The uncertainty is the hard part, especially when you have kids to feed," said Robert Smith. "Fortunately, my wife works, but now everything falls on her."

A specialist in gauge calibration at Honeywell, Smith and UAW Local 9 union members await the day they can return to work. Since Monday morning, Honeywell issued a lockout for roughly 340 bargaining employees, after the union rejected Honeywell's proposed contract. Smith itemized concerns such as a proposed wage increase, which appeared to be defenseless against skyrocketing healthcare costs.

"It's gonna be rough for a while," he conceded.

Through e-mail, a Honeywell spokesperson addressed the wage concerns:

"Our offer has wage increases in years one to four of a proposed new five year contract. We have proposed one year of zero increase to match what other employees at the site had in 2013 to help cut costs and avoid layoffs to address challenges of the Great Recession. Our bargaining unit employees benefited from this sacrifice at that time, even though they got raises under their labor contract, and we have asked them for a year of zero increase as a matter of fairness to other employees at the site.

The offer specifies that Local 9 union members would receive a 6-percent over Years 2-4, with a raise this year, according to the wage table
in the local agreement.

Honeywell said healthcare benefits are equitable to what other company employees receive nationwide, including unionized workers. In March, the spokesperson added another local UAW approved the same contract with the benefits listed in the Local 9 offer.

"We want to go back to work," said Smith. "We want a fair contract, so that we can support our families. Leave insurance the way it is. Give us the benefits we have without taking them away."

Honeywell electrician Harold Benion felt the lockout demeaned veteran employees.

"There's people here with years of loyalty and work with the company, hand-in-hand," said Benion, Vice President of UAW Local 9. "And all of a sudden, we no longer can do our jobs."

Smith, a fellow first-shift worker, sensed a wave of change at Honeywell when apparently the company hired "scabs" about six to eight weeks before the lockout.

"They say they bargained in good faith. I don't think that's bargaining in good faith," said Smith, who brought his young son to picket on Friday.

In the e-mail, Honeywell maintained its commitment to bargain in good faith in a way that is fair to employees and supports the company.

"Just as the union takes preparations before a contract expires – and this union took a strike vote – a company also has the right to plan. We advised the union well in advance we were bringing in temporary workers as part of our contingency planning," responded the Honeywell spokesman.

The union contract expired May 3.

Below is a full statement from Honeywell:
"Honeywell is disappointed UAW Local 9 members rejected a competitive and comprehensive offer that would have provided wage increases over the term of the contract. In fact, our offer was similar to the one another UAW local accepted just a few weeks ago. A lot has changed in the five years since we last bargained with the union and our proposals reflect the need to address those changes to be successful in an aviation industry that, globally, has seen more than 30,000 layoffs in the last year alone, including thousands of job cuts announced by our largest customer in March. Our commitment to our customers is the foundation of our business and we must ensure that we can continue to serve our customers reliably. For this reason, and in support of our critical bargaining objectives, the company has made the difficult decision to not allow members of the bargaining unit to work until an agreement on a new contract is reached. We will operate the South Bend site with salaried personnel and an experienced, trained, temporary workforce that is focused on our customers and can do so safely and without distractions. We’ve invested more than $27 million in the South Bend facility in the last five years and increased the number of employees by 10 percent. The average total compensation, including benefits and overtime, for represented workers exceeds $80,000 per year. One out of every five members earns more than $100,000 and some earn well above $150,000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our union-represented employees make 16 percent more than the average South Bend worker in base wages alone. We bargained with the union in good faith for more than three weeks and made an offer that was fair to employees and would help support our business. Our commitment to South Bend is 92-years strong. We remain optimistic that we can reach a new collective bargaining agreement that provides wage increases and comprehensive benefits to our employees, is consistent with the economic realities facing the industry and supports the site’s long-term future. Please go to southbend.honeywell.com/negotiations for updates. The work stoppage is not expected to have a material impact on Honeywell's financial performance or its 2016 outlook."