FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) - Mercury Marine President Mark Schwabero has agreed to meet withleaders of the union that rejected a package of wage and benefitconcessions the Fond du Lac boat engine maker says it needs to keephundreds of jobs from moving to Oklahoma, a spokesman said Monday.
Tuesday's meeting is at the request of InternationalAssociation of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 1947, saidSteve Fleming, a spokesman for Mercury Marine, the largest employerin the eastern Wisconsin city of Fond du Lac.
"Mark is absolutely willing to sit down and hear what theyhave to say, but the essence of the (proposed) contract has toremain the same," Fleming said in a telephone interview from Fonddu Lac. "Nobody knows for sure what they are going to talk about."
Union leaders did not immediately return telephone messagesMonday.
The union reported Sunday that its 850 members overwhelminglyvoted to reject what Mercury Marine called its final offer torework a four-year labor contract signed a year ago. The companysaid the offer remains valid until midnight Saturday.
The company had said workers would see no pay cuts under itsproposal, but the union said workers were asked give up 2 percentpay raises in each of the last two years of the contract. Theaverage hourly wage now is about $20, the union said. The proposalalso called for lower wages for new hires and workers called backfrom layoffs, and changes in work rules and pension benefits thatthe union considered unworkable.
After Sunday's vote, Mercury Marine, the world's largestmanufacturer of boat and recreational marine engines, said it wouldmove many of its Fond du Lac manufacturing operations to a nonunionplant in Stillwater, Okla., over the next two to three years.
An additional 900 jobs in the corporate headquarters werealso at risk, the company said.
The company's MerCruiser plant in Stillwater employs about380 people.
Mercury Marine, founded in 1939 as Kiekhaefer Corp. ofCedarburg, also has manufacturing operations in Tulsa, Okla., aswell as South Carolina, Florida, Mexico, Japan, United Kingdom,Belgium and China.
Mercury Marine, a subsidiary of Lake Forest, Ill.-basedBrunswick Corp., has to reduce production capacity because saleshave dropped 50 percent from a year ago and any recovery could takeyears, Fleming said Monday.
"The marine industry is going to crawl out of thatrecession," he said. "There is talk the industry will never reachwhere it was before. If you don't take appropriate actions now, youwon't be here."
Fleming said Mercury Marine union workers have a history ofrejecting company proposals on the first vote.
"This was about, 'Hey, listen. This is what we have to do tobecome competitive and here's a way to get there.' This wasn't anus-versus-them, squeeze out as much as you can," he said. "Thecontract is based on what is necessary to be competitive."
While townspeople may have been shocked that workers rejectedthe revised contract with so many jobs on the line, companyexecutives and administrators were more disappointed thansurprised, Fleming said. Trust between the union and management wasnot destroyed, he said.
"We were making engines Friday when we left for the weekendand we are still making engines today," he said.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Single-digit temperatures and light snow are greeting Green Bay Packers fans at Lambeau Field.
A celebration at the nation's first school forest is sending Laona students back to their roots.
Several fire departments battling a shed fire in Abrams.
An armed robbery suspect sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot in Fond du Lac County.
First responders helped ring in the holidays at the 45th annual Howard-Suamico Christmas Parade.
Christmas is just two and half weeks away, and kids and families are getting into the holiday spirit.