IBEW Teamwork Wins Sunday Premium Issue for Federal Workers
March 23, 2011
Federal wage policy covering hundreds of IBEW workers in the government branch can be complex. Protecting the rights of members often takes a lot of coordination between local unions and the International Office.
Power plant operators who maintain locks and dams for the Army Corps of Engineers recently saw their earnings protected by strong teamwork between International Representatives and local union leaders from Nashville, Tenn., Local 2080, Dardanelle, Ark., Local 2219 and Pickstown, S.D., Local 1688. Says Local 2080 Business Manager Josh Lowery:
The issue dividing the local unions and the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the locks and dams, was Sunday premium pay. Back in 1978, the parties negotiated that work on Sundays would be compensated at a premium of 25 percent over straight-time wages.
But that was before the parties agreed to implement compressed work schedules. How should workers be compensated for working 12 hours on Sunday? The issue was never discussed.
ACE took the position that power plant workers working 12 hour compressed schedules were limited to eight hours of premium pay for Sundays. And the Defense Financial Accounting Service said that since those members had been paid all 12 hours at the premium rate for about a year and a half, they were responsible for returning overpayments.
The locals and International appealed and the parties negotiated a memorandum of understanding affirming that premium coverage for the full 12 hours on compressed work schedules would be included in the next contract to be negotiated in July. ACE also agreed that no overpayments would be charged to power plant workers.
Lowery, a lock operator at Old Hickory Lock and Dam on the Cumberland River in the middle of Tennessee says the settlement of the premium issue will help Local 2080 reach out to ACE workers who have declined to join the union in the right-to-work state.
Answering nonmembers who ask what unions can do for them, Lowery tells co-workers that by not having to pay back ACE for overpayments, each worker saved $1,500. Lowery tells them:
International Representative Brent Hall, who services Local 2080, says ACE’s Nashville district is spread wide, with locations three hours from the city, making it difficult to move beyond 30 percent union density. Says Hall: