On the Greenfield Kennametal dispute

  • Union workers picket Kennametal on North Street in Greenfield last Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 8/23/2019 9:52:36 AM
Modified: 8/23/2019 9:52:21 AM

Kennametal is having a labor dispute. The issues mentioned in the newspaper are familiar ones to employees and ex-employees (like myself). The company wants the KMT FLEX insurance plan, some mandatory overtime, and additional use of temporary workers. All have been issues in past negotiations.

As a former management employee of 44 years, I was a part of the contract negotiating team on several occasions. There is a little more to it than meets the eye.

Prior to negotiation, The Union solicits a list of demands from the members. This is submitted to the company for discussion. The list is then broken down into non-financial requests and financial requests. The non-financial are dealt with first with some satisfied and some not. Then each financial item is priced out. For example, an extra vacation day costs so much and additional shift premium costs so much. Such numbers are used by management in determining what is to be agreed to. Corporate lets management know how much is available and the plant can divvy it up as it wants including an overall wage increase.

Often management presents a list of demands and the Union addresses these accordingly.

At the table, each side has a spokesman. The Union has an official who works for them and management has a corporate assigned person. The remaining persons at the meetings are there to provide information or opinions as needed. Items are agreed to, noted and tabled when this happens.

When there is an impasse, the Union strikes and the workers walk out. Then corporate determines which contingency plan to follow.

There are a few background facts which may be not as well known:

1. Greenfield’s plant represents less than one percent of Kennametal’s business.

2. Greenfield’s product (taps) is not one of KMT’s main products.

3. KMT tried to sell Greenfield along with other plants that were not in the mainstream business but it did not sell. Other ones did and became a new non-Kennametal company called Greenfield Industries.

4. A nearly identical plant in Vermont was combined with Greenfield, the best equipment moved and the Vermont plant closed.

5. Unlike most old factories, this factory has a ready-made buyer. Since it is adjacent to the hospital which is usually growing, this pretty big lot would be prime material. For example, hospital workers told us KMT employees that our administration building was going to them for offices even before we people who worked in the building knew it was closing.

6. Some of our old customers (Presto for example) now buy their taps from China. Not us. And they were a big customer.

7. Tap production is only a fraction of what it was years ago. And some is outsourced.

8. All product design, marketing, and sales functions are done elsewhere. Greenfield is a manufacturing site only. No finished goods inventory is kept on site.

9. The skills of most employees are specialized and were pretty much learned in house and are not really transferrable to other local industries.

Some town officials have spoken out on the side of the strikers. Undoubtedly they do not know all the facts and certainly should not express any opinion. The dispute/strike will take its course and will ultimately be resolved in some manner.

We Greenfield residents hope the dispute is settled and employees return to work. Time will tell.

Alan Owseichik is a resident of Greenfield.

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