OPEIU Local 11 ratifies five-year ‘joint accord’ at Northwest Natural

Members of Office and Professional Employees Local 11 ratified a new five-year “joint accord” March 24 at Northwest Natural that guarantees no layoffs, full maintenance of benefits the first two years, and wage hikes of 12 to nearly 24 percent for a few over the life of the agreement.

The contract was ratified by a vote of 419-251.

Local 11 represents nearly 900 employees at the gas company, including office staff and outside gas and construction workers.

“It was a complicated negotiations, especially after coming off a seven-year contract,” said Local 11 Executive Secretary-Treasurer Debbie Sluyter. “But we’re happy with the results. We have a very good labor-management partnership at Northwest Natural Gas that works — and worked — very well.”

Northwest Natural will pay employee health insurance premiums in full through June 30, 2006. After that, the company contribution will be capped at $1,000 per employee per month. All employees hired prior to April 1, 2004 will be guaranteed no layoffs for the life of the agreement.

Additionally, Northwest Natural agreed to join the Western States OPEIU Pension Plan, bringing the number of pension plans it pays into to three. NW natural also offers a 401(k) plan, as well as its own company plan.

Local 11 members will receive two additional floating holidays, bringing the total number of paid holidays to 13; and double-time pay for work on holidays, unscheduled Sundays and for call-ins on days off.

The negotiating committee performed a market wage survey with companies in the Western region of the United States to compare wages in specific job categories. The survey found some positions were woefully below market levels while others were right at or above.

Wages in the various job categories were restructured accordingly, thus, the wide-ranging wage hikes the first year of the contract.

All employees will receive annual 3 percent wage hikes the final four years of the contract.

“I believe this is a good package in its entirety. It exceeded our expectations, especially given the economy,” Sluyter said.

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