Mercury says union talks are making progress

FOND DU LAC, Wis. — Mercury Marine officials and representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aviation Workers (IAMAW) Local 1947, which represents hourly workers at Mercury’s Fond du Lac plant, met for the fourth time Thursday, Mercury reported in a statement.

Mercury said the groups made progress during an eight-hour session and confirmed talks remain on track to be completed by Aug. 17. Both sides agreed to meet Tuesday and Wednesday, with additional sessions Thursday and Friday if necessary.

Mercury has previously stated that negotiations will be completed this summer. Possible outcomes include consolidation of Mercury operations in Stillwater, Okla., or Fond du Lac, Wis.

“In order to formulate a final decision by the end of summer, we needed to make progress at this meeting, and I think both committees worked hard to make that happen,” Mark Schwabero, president of Mercury Marine, said in the release. “The current market requires us to make some very critical decisions over the next few weeks. We are bargaining not for enhancements or over political or philosophical differences; we must restructure our business to compete successfully in a very different market.”

Mercury officials said there are still several issues to get through. According to the release, much of the discussion Thursday focused on Operational Flexibility, which, along with Benefits, formed Mercury’s first proposal. Mercury completed its presentation Monday with its wage proposal.

“We have introduced a full and comprehensive proposal on wages, benefits and operational flexibility to try to advance the negotiation process with the union,” Schwabero said.

Mercury said its current proposal includes the potential for:

— No wage reductions for current employees for the next three years and an overall structure for new hires and rehires that is competitive in the Fox Valley.

— Health care and retirement plans much like current plans for salaried employees.

— An early retirement incentive proposal that provides an opportunity for employees to retire with their current benefits and potentially opens up new employment opportunities in the community.

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