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Steelworkers reject Canton Corning plant contract

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CANTON — United Steelworkers Local 1026 overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from the Corning Canton plant, but a union negotiator said he thought an agreement would be worked out soon.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll get a deal without any work stoppage,” said James H. Ridgeway, north country representative of the United Steelworkers. “I think it’s a good sign we’re back to the table.”

Negotiations are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Mr. Ridgeway said.

A company spokesman said Corning remains hopeful a contract will be approved soon.

“We are disappointed that the membership of the local union did not ratify the agreement negotiated by their union representatives. We believe the terms of the proposed contract are well above the market and meet the needs of our employees and the company,” said Joseph M. Dunning, supervisor of media relations. “We remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement.”

Workers had no issues with a proposed pay raise of 3 percent annually over the four-year life of the proposed contract, Mr. Ridgeway said.

The sticking point for many union members was proposed changes on how overtime pay is calculated.

A policy called ghosting allowed unworked holiday and vacation days, jury duty and bereavement time to be counted in a work week for overtime purposes. Corning wants to eliminate the practice, Mr. Ridgeway said. Unlike other Corning plants, Canton included vacation time in the ghosting policy.

“Vacation makes it a substantially bigger issue,” Mr. Ridgeway said.

Union members also were leery of health insurance changes that increased possible maximum costs.

“That scares people because nobody knows what’s happening with insurance,” Mr. Ridgeway said. “The insurance is going to cost people significantly more.”

The Steelworkers represent about 150 workers at the Canton plant on McAdoo Road, town of DeKalb.

The Canton plant produces specialty glass that supplies material for the global semiconductor industry. The factory also started making radome, a material used in the defense industry.

A product called Polarcor also is produced at the plant, in addition to glass for windows for space vehicles and other aerospace products.

A 16,000-square-foot expansion project for the plant is still planned for this spring, with completion targeted for the fall, Mr. Dunning said.

The addition will be used for working inventory and some production, although he would not provide details. It could mean the addition of dozens of jobs, Mr. Dunning said.

“There will be a mix of skill sets required,” he said.

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