I’ve Been Generally Impressed By USW Local 10-86’s Merck Strategies, But This I Don’t Entirely Follow. . .

Longer term readers will recall that I have generally been a strong supporter of the plight of the unionized workforce at West Point — some 1,800 strong (down from over 2,000 in 2010).

This week, however, Philly.com’s blogs have been covering an emerging email debate between Local 10-86’s leadership, and Merck’s CEO. What seems to be lost in the dust up here is that it apparently broke into the public over what union leadership has characterized as Mr. Frazier’s granting all non-unionized workers at Merck an “extra” day off, in appreciation of their efforts, this year — on the Friday before Labor Day. [In the last contract negotiations — in 2013 — so-called floating holidays were a rather contentious issue with Local 10-86, and Merck management.]

In point of fact, Mr. Frazier granted the non-unionized workers a day off — one that the collective bargaining agreement for Local 10-86 already made a “floating holiday” — for all the union workers. That’s in addition to Monday, Labor Day. Here’s FiercePharma, restating what I think SHOULD be the more salient bits of the discussion:

. . . .Frazier in return, explains that collective bargaining agreements make it hard sometimes to offer the same perks to all employees.


The CEO assured Bangert that union workers are appreciated and added, “Merck goes to great lengths to protect the safety and well-being of our employees.” He assured him that manufacturing management and HR would “work with local site leaders to address your concerns directly”. . . .

From my perspective, all Mr. Frazier is guilty of. . . is granting all employees an equal right — to that enjoyed by the union employees — a floating day off on the Friday before Labor Day weekend.

Now, it is true that the remainder of the layoffs mentioned in the Form 10-Q are still coming — some 2,600 of them — and mostly to shop floor workers, as opposed to office dwellers — who’ve already been cut by around 40,000 over the past five years, world-wide (inclusive of legacy Schering-Plough’s cuts).

That should be the focus of the discussions — not whether there was any disrespect of the unionized workers (by the CEO), in granting all others the same paid holiday the union presently enjoys. That — and the “compulsory overtime” at West Point (with its attendant potential safety issues) — those are serious, and public-debate worthy, topics for the union’s public letter writing campaign, from my perspective.

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