Sub-Zero workers and company reach agreementMore than 300 Sub-Zero/Wolf jobs will stay in Wisconsin, after all -- at least for the next eight years -- staving off a threat to move the work to Kentucky.
By: By Judy Newman, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
More than 300 Sub-Zero/Wolf jobs will stay in Wisconsin, after all -- at least for the next eight years -- staving off a threat to move the work to Kentucky.
But officials of both the Madison company and the union representing its factory workers said if Gov. Scott Walker wants businesses to bring their jobs to Wisconsin, the state will have to spend some money to make it worth their while.
Employees who make Sub-Zero built-in freezers and refrigerators voted 211-81 on Thursday to approve a package of concessions, cutting their pay and benefits 20 percent and freezing wages for five years.
On Friday, officials of the privately owned, Madison company accepted the plan.
"We're not happy about this but we've been able to secure the jobs in Fitchburg -- 320 jobs and 100 (non-union) salaried positions," said Dave Goodspeed, business representative for Sheet Metal Workers Local 565.
"We're pleased that it's over with. It's been a difficult period for all of our employees," said Chuck Verri, Sub-Zero/Wolf vice president of human resources. He declined to discuss terms of the agreement.
Goodspeed said in addition to the wage and benefit cuts, newly hired employees will receive a slightly lower starting pay, and the company will offer severance packages to existing workers.
"They've probably got more people than they need," said Goodspeed. He said Sub-Zero probably would like to trim the work force by about 20 people.
In exchange, Sub-Zero will keep making built-in units in Fitchburg at least into 2019, Goodspeed said. Wages will rise 1.5 percent a year, starting in 2016.
The terms are not so different from a contract offer that employees soundly rejected last October. Goodspeed said the union's bargaining committee has been working on an alternative since then. The new agreement has "more language ... protecting jobs," he said.
The three months also gave employees time to reflect, Goodspeed said. "It really came down to a choice between (taking) concessions and losing their jobs. Unfortunately, these are the times we live in," he said.
Meanwhile, Sub-Zero/Wolf has talked to Kentucky officials, who visited the company in Madison within the last two weeks, Goodspeed said.
He said Kentucky offered multimillion-dollar incentives -- possibly in the tens of millions. "Wisconsin's offer paled in comparison," Goodspeed said.
Sub-Zero/Wolf has a building in Richmond, Ky., originally slated to house a new division, manufacturing dishwashers. That project is "still on hold," Verri said.
But Goodspeed and Verri agreed: Wisconsin will have to find some money to keep and add jobs.
"Unless this state chooses to do business differently, we will continue to be easy pickings for southern states," Verri said. "I would urge Gov. Walker and state officials to figure it out sooner rather than later."
Verri said he is glad the Sub-Zero built-in jobs will stay in Wisconsin. "That was our intent from the start. That was (president and chief executive) Jim Bakke's direction to us: Resolve it here," Verri said.
Goodspeed said there are still some bad feelings to settle among employees. "Now comes the difficult part," he said. "Our membership has got to learn to do with less."
Even so, Goodspeed said, Sub-Zero/Wolf employees will be among the highest paid manufacturing jobs in Dane County. He did not disclose wages.
The agreement marks the close of the company's six-month effort to reduce terms of contracts that had been scheduled to run through 2014. Last August, Wolf employees were told their jobs would move to Kentucky if they didn't take lower pay and benefits. After first turning down the proposal, the 200 Wolf employees later accepted a similar deal.
About 100 other Sub-Zero workers who make wine storage units and a high-end model of refrigerators will lose their jobs, as that work is moved to a new factory in Goodyear, Ariz., over the next two years.
Copyright (c) 2011, The Wisconsin State Journal
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