Members of United Auto Workers Local 1243 endorsed a five-year labor agreement with Alcoa Howmet in Whitehall, MI. The vote showed a heavy approval by almost 900 employees of the investment-casting foundry near Muskegon, with about 90% voting in favor of the contract.

Alcoa Howmet, an operating unit of Alcoa Inc., has about 2,060 employees at Whitehall. The plant produces single-crystal, directionally solidified and equiaxed castings in superalloys for turbine blades, vanes, and high-temperature hardware for aerospace and industrial gas turbines.

An Alcoa spokeswoman did not detail the terms of the new agreement, but in published reports Alcoa and UAW officials equally noted their satisfaction with the result of the March 26 balloting. The new contract takes effect immediately and runs through April 2018. Negotiations began in mid February and concluded with an agreement on March 22.

“This agreement demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together, keeping in mind the needs of our employees and the long-term success of our business,” stated Amy Heisser, director of Human Resources at the Alcoa Howmet Whitehall operations.

“There were a few questions from our members, but I think we have a decent contract,” according UAW Local 1243 president Leonard Lange, local news reported. Lange’s union local represents 1,100 workers at the Michigan plant. “It gives us the idea that we will definitely be working. This will keep people in Whitehall working,” he said.

Reportedly, Alcoa will increase workers’ base wage by $2/hour over the course of the five-year term, and employees will receive a $1,200 signing bonus. Reportedly, there also will be improvements to the company’s employee and pension benefits programs.

In addition, the terms of the contract provide more flexibility to the company as it assigns workers and schedules production programs. An Alcoa representative indicated the new contract will allow the company to schedule seven-day operations and said it establishes accountability standards for workers.

Current long-term employees will maintain their benefits packages, but the company won a new endorsement of a 2005 provision that presents a different wage and benefits structure for new hires.

The new contract also offers a buyout provision to early retirees.

“This is a good contract for our people and for our business,” Heisser told local reporters. “We think this is certainly a fair contract.”