Union workers vote to accept Rotek settlement proposal; could return to work in Aurora in less than one month

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- Union workers who had been away from their jobs for 18 1/2 months voted Aug. 3 to accept a settlement proposal from Rotek Inc., according to Bill Hyslop, president of Steelworkers Local 8565.

Hyslop said union workers "overwhelming" voted at the Ravenna VFW Hall to return to work, although he declined to give out specific vote totals. The vote is subject to approval by the National Labor Relations Board, he said.

Hyslop said there are about 85 hourly union workers who expect to return to work at Rotek "within the next month."

Kellie Harris, director of media and communications for ThyssenKrupp of North America, the parent firm of Rotek, said, "We believe we're very close to resolving this dispute, but it still has to be approved by the NLRB.

"We feel really positive with the conversations we've had with the union and good about the terms that we've come to. From a Rotek perspective, we are excited about the process, but we want to wait until all the T's are crossed and I's are dotted."

The proposed four-year package involves "some back pay," according to Hyslop, and there is "a small concession package with it." Specific numbers were not available.

Hyslop said the contract proposal "puts us a lot closer to where we were 18 1/2 months ago."

"We feel it was fair," he said. "Did we get everything we wanted? No, you never do. We retained our benefits and wage structure that took a small hit, but we're able to work with that. We had a small wage reduction, but with profit sharing, we could get that back."

On Jan. 14, 2013, Rotek implemented the terms of its "last, best and final offer," Harris said, and the union elected to set up pickets on Jan. 18, 2013. Rotek has referred to the situation as a strike, while employees and union reps claim it was "a lockout."

Harris said in May 2013 the union rejected a settlement offer, and Rotek began the process of hiring replacement workers.

Hyslop said now there will be about 50 replacements that will be phased out, and that 31 union workers have been called back to work since Jan. 25, 2014. He said the union workers "have had to make some sacrifices to retain what we had."

"We're prepared to work with the company and make it so everybody has a future here," he said. "We think that is very possible. This is a bunch of workers trying to fight for justice, and I think justice is served.

"We want to thank the community for their support," he added. "We're ready to regroup and get back to making the product and ensure everybody's future."

Rotek is a North American leader in the engineering, manufacturing, service and support of large diameter slewing bearings and seamless forged rings that are used in parts that produce wind energy and military products. Hyslop said Rotek makes aluminum gun turret bearings for Hummers.

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