Members of Bakery Confectionery Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) at Nabisco are continuing to work past the Feb. 29 expiration of their union contract. But BCTGM refused a request by Nabisco parent company Mondelēz International for a temporary contract extension. As a result, the union could strike, or the company could lock out workers, at any time. Further contract talks are scheduled for Baltimore starting March 7.
The Bakers Union represents about 2,200 workers at six Nabisco plants and two distribution centers in the U.S. Local 364 represents 200 workers at Nabisco’s Portland Bakery at 100 NE Columbia Boulevard.
During two weeks of bargaining that began Feb. 16 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mondelēz proposed to withdraw from the union’s multi-employer B&C Pension Fund — and instead contribute an equivalent amount to a 401(k)-style retirement savings plan. BCTGM called that unacceptable. With traditional pensions like the B&C Pension Fund, employers invest funds to make sure they can pay a guaranteed monthly benefit; with 401(k)s, all the investment risk is on individual employees.
Mondelēz says it wants out of the B&C Pension Fund because the fund is projected to be insolvent within 17 years. But BCTGM negotiator Ron Baker said that doesn’t make financial sense: If Mondelēz withdraws, by law it would still be required to pay $900 million to make good on its existing obligations. Baker said that’s about $25 million a year for several decades — about the same as Mondelēz is paying now without the extra 401(k) style payments it’s proposing.
In what Mondelēz called its final offer, emailed to the union Feb. 25, the company is also proposing to reduce its contribution to employee health insurance to 90 percent; right now it pays 100 percent.
BCTGM continues to protest Mondelēz’ decision to replace several bakery production lines in Chicago with new facilities in Mexico. BCTGM is getting ready to launch a consumer boycott of Mexican-made Nabisco products.
“We are going to be on it like a dog on a bone, and we are not going to let up,” Baker said.