CEDAR RAPIDS — Rockwell Collins violated its contract with a local union when it outsourced custodial work at its Cedar Rapids plant, an arbitrator has decided.
In an arbitration award issued Wednesday, Arbitrator Robert Grey upheld a grievance filed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1362, which represents union members at Rockwell Collins’ Cedar Rapids facilities.
The union argued in its grievance that Rockwell had violated its collective bargaining agreement with Local 1362 by taking a unilateral action and outsourcing the work of custodial staff in Cedar Rapids. Rockwell announced the decision to outsource the work, which would have affected about 62 employees, in late 2016. When the two sides went to arbitration in September 2017, Rockwell said only 24 of those employees had been laid off, according to Grey’s award.
The Cedar Rapids-based company had said the outsourcing was necessary to reduce costs in a competitive business environment. Rockwell also contended that it acted “reasonably and in good faith with respect to outsourcing the custodial staff” and complied with the collective bargaining agreement.
Grey said in his award, however, that outsourcing the union staff in the name of reducing costs was not sufficient by itself to meet the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.
“Maintaining or increasing the company’s competitiveness is undisputedly a valid business priority,” Grey wrote. “However, on this record, if the company were free to avoid or unilaterally dismantle its collectively bargained wage obligations on the basis of labor cost savings alone, such fundamental contractual provisions would be rendered meaningless.”
Rockwell and the union have 60 days to negotiate a remedy to the grievance, according to Grey’s decision.
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“We have received the decision and are reviewing it, and are currently evaluating our options,” Rockwell said in an emailed statement Thursday.
Shelley Parbs, business manager for IBEW 1362, did not respond to a request for comment. Nate Willems, a lawyer who represented the union, said the union is “hopeful we can work with the company to have a just and equitable result.”
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