SKOWHEGAN — After months of negotiations, the largest union at Sappi North America’s Somerset plant in Skowhegan has reached an agreement with the company on a new three-year contract.
The contract involving United Steelworkers Local 9 includes a 3% wage increase each year of the contract, a $5,000 payout to each employee, improvements to pension and accident/sickness insurance, and no raise health care costs payable by the client.
“For many months, the company questioned our solidarity. Members spoke loud and clear,” said United Steelworkers Local 9 President Patrick Carleton. “Having worked in the plant during the pandemic, this contract offer represents the dedication and commitment to keep our business profitable in our markets. It was long overdue. »
Maine’s AFL-CIO said in a statement this week that the ratification amounts to “the most lucrative membership package” since Sappi bought the plant in 1995.
“During this process, (members of USW Local 9) have been able to increase their purchasing power, control health insurance costs, protect pensions and build union solidarity,” the statement said. .
USW Local 9 is the largest of the plant’s four unions, representing about 465 workers.
USW members and supporters held two rallies last month to demand a fairer contract with Sappi after 96% of members rejected the company’s previous offer.
At one point, members had voted to authorize a strike within 10 days if an agreement could not be reached. A 10 day notice was given to management with the intention of going on strike last Monday. But before that, meetings were held in which “the company ultimately committed not to increase health insurance costs unless premiums increased by more than 14%,” according to the statement. ‘AFL-CIO.
The company also pledged to pay a lump sum to those who retired after the last contract expired and before the last ratification.
“Members again rejected the company’s proposal last week, but with the strike looming, Sappi contacted the bargaining team on March 18 and the two sides reached a tentative agreement,” the statement said. ‘AFL-CIO.
Sappi officials said in a statement this week that they were “pleased that the employees of Somerset Mill represented by United Steelworkers voted to accept our proposal, which contains a number of significant improvements for our employees”.
The company declined to answer questions when contacted this week.
Maine AFL-CIO officials said IAM 2740 and IBEW 1768, two other unions at the plant representing millwrights and electricians respectively, had already ratified their contracts. The factory’s fourth, an independent union representing guards, is not currently in negotiations.
Maine’s economy edged closer to pre-pandemic employment in February