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Pact Ends 6-Week Strike at ITT Night Vision

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IUE-CWA Local 82162 members returned to work at ITT Night Vision in Roanoke, Va., Aug. 3, after ratifying a five-year contract with significant improvements in wages, pension, vacation and overtime requirements, and a fair formula for dealing with health care cost increases. The settlement ends a strike by almost 600 workers that began June 21 after they voted down the company's earlier offer. ITT Night Vision manufactures night vision glasses used by the military and police.

The new contract brings wage increases of 2 percent on Sept. 1 and 3 percent each September for the duration of the contract. Pensions for future retirees will increase by 54 percent over term, from $24 per month per year of service to $37. Workers who choose to retire within the next 18 months will receive all five year's of pension increases.

"The contract meets or exceeds our goals on all issues," said local President Lee Dillon, who said the pact was won by the members on the picket line.

Workers will now get three weeks of vacation after seven years, four weeks after 20 years and an additional day each year after 25 years to a maximum of five weeks. Management had sought to require concurrent use of vacation with all time off requested under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but the agreement limits required concurrent vacation and FMLA leave to three days, allowing members to save the rest of their vacation if they choose.

"That was a tough issue. It's what put us out on strike," Dillon said. "They were trying to fix absentee problems and we were trying to get vacation. We were far apart on it."

The requirement to work overtime also changes, from the current schedule of every Saturday and one Sunday a month to two Saturdays only.

Health care premiums for family coverage drop from $30 to $24 per month in September then increase gradually each year to a maximum $39. Copays increase from $15 to $20 in September and remain at that level for the duration of the contract.

The agreement establishes a permanent arbitration panel for grievances, with six members chosen by management and six by the union. The twelve arbitrators will be used in rotation.

During the strike, the local held mass rallies every Monday, with turnouts of at least 300 workers, and kept up a daily presence on the picket line.

About 150 Local 82162 members in certain departments had been working substantial overtime hours with little complaint since Sept. 11, 2001, helping supply America's military, police and border patrol with night vision goggles and related equipment essential to national security and in the war in Iraq. One member, Dale Johnson, told the Roanoke Times that she had only one weekend off in three months and missed her husband and five children.

"Our people haven't had time to go to a party or a wedding, eat supper with their families or go to a ball game," Dillon said. "You had people with kids 5 years old and the next thing you know, they're 7, and where were you?"

He also stressed that, with management employees filling in for the strikers, nonstandard products could have reached the military. "I don't know if that could happen, and I hope the government inspectors in the plant would prevent it, but big business is about making money. I think families that have people stationed overseas deserve to know that."

Dillon said Steelworkers, Postal Workers, Teamsters and CWA members supported the strikers on the picket line, including GE workers represented by IUE-CWA locals. "One day we had a caravan of Verizon trucks go by blowing their horns and giving us the high-five," he said.

Local residents and business owners delivered food and water to the strike line, and the Roanoke United Central Labor Council contributed to the local's strike fund.