The 92-year-old Illinois forger specializes in steel gear manufacturing. A company official claimed it is “cautiously optimistic” a collective-bargaining agreement can yet be achieved with the unions representing workers there.

Workers Locked Out at Steel Forger After Contract Talks Fail

Oct. 27, 2015
Three unions reject Clifford-Jacobs Forging’s four-year offer, impasse follows 70 workers replaced No wage increase, benefits cut “…reasonable measures to ensure continued business operations… ”

Clifford-Jacobs Forging Co., an impression-die operation in Champagne, IL, has locked out 70 workers whose unions failed to reach a new labor agreement on September 29.  A previous, four-year contract expired on September 27, and the two sides agreed to a one-day extension. The extra time was ineffective in resolving the impasse, and the workers voted down a new contract proposal on September 28.

Clifford-Jacobs produces steel gears and parts for mining equipment, energy systems, and defense programs. In addition to forging, it offers heat-treating and finish machining. The forger is owned by The IMT Group, Cambridge, ON.

Workers represented by three unions (the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers; and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers) rejected the company’s new four-year offer they claimed included no wage increases and reduced company health insurance and pension contributions.

The forger continues to operate with a crew of replacement workers.

“We will take all reasonable measures to ensure continued business operations,” stated Clifford-Jacobs’ human resources manager Jeff Baker.

The sequence of the contract rejection, strike authorization, strike notification, and lockout remains in some dispute. Baker said the lockout followed notification by the unions’ representative that the employees had authorized a strike.

"We are not on strike. We were in negotiations with the company. We voted down their last, best and final (offer) … We had strike authorization but we chose to go back to work and the company is not allowing us back in," according to Ron Stanley, business manager with the Machinists' union, in a local news report.

Stanley told a local reporter the company asked him to report the results of the unions’ vote on the contract offer, and that the lockout followed news of the contract rejection.

“We respect collective bargaining and believe a mutually agreed to contract should be part of that process. Clifford-Jacobs is dedicated to continue providing quality service to our customers while also working diligently to obtain an agreement,” according to the HR manager.

A new round of negotiations took place in mid October, but were equally ineffective in resolving the deadlock.

Another negotiating session was scheduled for October 28.

"When we met on October 13, we were informed that the unions' leadership would not be able to talk again for another 15 days,” according to Clifford-Jacobs’ Baker. “So after we learned that, to meet our customers' needs we had to make some alternate staffing changes,” describing the decision to engage replacement workers.

"While we continue to be at an impasse, we are cautiously optimistic and will continue to be that we can reach an equitable agreement," he added.