Union wants governor to be part of Mercury negotiations

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The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers will request Wisconsin Gov. James Doyle take an active part in any negotiations with Mercury Marine.

Mercury officials are considering shifting operations from Fond du Lac, Wis., to Stillwater, Okla., which would eliminate as many as 2,000 local jobs.

"The state of Wisconsin cannot afford to stand by while a major corporation commits an act of economic extortion in its own back yard," said IAM business representative Russell Krings, in a statement. "Mercury Marine has benefited for decades from state and local tax incentives and public support. They cannot be allowed to use the current economic crisis to pit one small community against another for the privilege of their presence."

"Obviously any involvement by the governor would be up to the governor, although the leaders at Mercury find it highly unlikely that the governor would become involved in negotiations between the company and its employees," company spokesman Steve Fleming told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

The union held a meeting yesterday to update members on the situation, and Mercury and union officials are scheduled to meet tomorrow, he said.

IAM members in Fond du Lac recently ratified a four-year agreement with Mercury Marine that included a provision permitting the contract to be modified in the event of extreme circumstances, according to the union.

"We're prepared to meet with Mercury Marine, as we have for years, and discuss the best way to preserve jobs, promote this company's products, and protect the economic interest of this community," said Krings. "We are not willing to allow short-sighted managers and out-of-town opportunists to tear down what we have worked for years to create."

Fleming said the company is trying to figure out the best way to handle two facilities that are not running even close to capacity. Consolidation is an "unavoidable possibility," though Mercury is also looking at what can be done to keep operations in Fond du Lac.

"Although we haven't asked for any wage concessions or wage changes - we haven't even brought up the word wages at this point - I think eventually there will be discussions regarding wages, benefits and workplace flexibility," he said.

- Beth Rosenberg



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