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Two-month UWUA strike defeats subcontracting attack

20 August, 2014Local 537 of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) is marking an important win after ratifying a new labour agreement with Pennsylvania-American Water. The new agreement brings nearly 150 workers back off strike and does not include management demands to eliminate protection against subcontracting.

Members of UWUA System Local 537 ratified the new four-year agreement on 16 August. The almost 150 UWUA workers’ eight-week work stoppage paid off with solid job protections in the contract. The agreement covers four Pennsylvania-American Water worksites through the Pittsburgh area, USA.

The new agreement also drops management’s earlier attempt to heavily curtail employee sick leave benefits, and awards workers significant “catch up” salary increases after four years without a raise. But the major priority for the UWUA members was to block the subcontracting language that would have allowed management to replace their jobs with outsourced contractors.

Kevin Booth, System President of UWUA Local 537 saluted the new agreement:

We can now return to work delivering essential public services to our customers without fear that management will destroy working families’ jobs through unfair subcontracting.

The previous collective agreement expired in May 2011 and the union struggle for this new labour agreement was hard-fought.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina congratulated affiliate UWUA:

When we fight, we win. This is the sort of standard setting victory against the global trend of employers using precarious work to weaken trade unions and the rights of all workers. UWUA’s members deserve job security. We salute this win.