Greed, pure and simple. How else can one describe what’s taking place at General Cable in Lincoln, RI right now? A company that is making money hand-over-fist for its investors, because of the hard work of its employees; decides those employees are owed nothing in return when it comes to raises, and even feels they should pay more for their health care.
In its annual report, General Cable touts how operating income grew by 12 percent to $248 million last year, on the strength of almost $6 billion in sales; with all of this taking place during a down economy. Also in that report, the company boasts how the plant in Lincoln received a “Best Plant Award” from Industry Week magazine.
When it’s convenient for them to do so, like in the Industry Week article, management at the plant lauds the employees and all they’ve done to make the Lincoln plant a stand out.
Manufacturing manager John Tremblay emphasizes that the buy-in of the workers and the local United Steelworkers union has been key to the success of the switch to cellularization.
“You can make the physical moves with the equipment, but the real benefits come when you get the associates engaged,” Tremblay says.
However, now that the contract for the members of USW Local 4543 is up for renegotiation, plant management conveniently forgets everything the employees and union have done to make the plant successful. Instead, they offer minimal wage increases, which barely keep up with the cost of living, while at the same time insist on employees paying more for health and dental coverage that in effect wipe out any wage increase and actually lead to a decrease in take-home pay.
Is this the way a responsible company, which says it values its employees, shows its gratitude? With a little digging though, finding that what management at the Lincoln plant says publicly isn’t anything like how they actually treat their employees on site.
From what was said at a recent (May 19) solidarity rally outside the plant, attended by most of the members of Local 4543 as well as other local community and labor activists; conditions at the plant are nothing like the picture painted in the annual report and the Industry Week article.
The Industry Week article detailed human resources manager, Mary Igoe, bemoaning the fact that under the old system of doing things there was no camaraderie among the workers.
“They didn’t even talk to each other,” Igoe says. “They were just making wire and pushing it along to the next operation.”
At the recent rally however, it was clear that protecting the company’s human capital always takes a back seat to protecting the company’s bottom line. Along with the HR manager, the maintenance manager, process engineer and other managers all have charges pending for continued harassment of employees. The employees they all claim to revere.
An investigation conducted at the beginning of April looking into some of these charges can hardly be viewed as impartial, as Ms. Igoe brought in a human resources manager from a neighboring plant in Willimantic, Conn.; one of five facilities also under the direction of vice president and team leader, Mike Monti.
It seems that for a global company like General Cable, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, it might have been better to go outside the immediate sphere of local management to get an objective opinion. However, Ms. Igoe decided to forgo the appearance of any conflict of interest and brought in the HR manager from a neighboring facility. It just so happens one of the principals under investigation used to work at that neighboring facility.
Mr. Steele has also been less than diligent in his investigations, interviewing fewer than half the witnesses to a particular incident involving Local President, Ed Matias. From their point of view, the members of Local 4543 feel that no one less than Stephen Roush, General Cable’s Vice President, North American Human Resources should be the one to investigate recent developments at the Lincoln plant.
However, when reached, Mr. Roush offered the quote, “We appreciate your inquiry, but the Lincoln plant is currently engaged in labor negotiations and we have no comment at this time.” Again demonstrating that the corporate policy is to use the employees as a showcase when they can; but take advantage of them at the bargaining table and retaliate against them for demanding their fair share of the profits they help the company derive.
People are powerful drivers of General Cable performance. Our organizational strategy is built on the belief that people are the differentiating element in gaining a competitive advantage. We recruit and develop talented people who bring special knowledge in such areas as manufacturing excellence, technology, quality, safety, management, purchasing, sales and accounting.
Across the global enterprise ― on the job and on the team, on task and on time ― we would not be in our current position of strength without the individual and collective efforts of the more than 11,000 General Cable associates who come to work every day to make a difference.
It actually seems a little strange he didn’t reference the company’s corporate citizenship policy towards its people, stated in the above text box and at: www.generalcablecsr.com/citizenship/people/
In another troubling example of how the company says one thing publicly but acts completely differently in its management policies, the company leads off its summary of financial and operating highlights in the annual report by pointing out how they, “Further improved one of the best safety records in the industry.” However, that statistic may be misleading, especially at the Lincoln plant when health and safety manager, Rick Flaxington, routinely encourages employees not report injuries, or directs them to the company doctor rather than have them seek treatment from their own physicians or at an emergency room. In certain instances, employees were threatened if they sought medical treatment and one was even fired for getting hurt on the job. After an 18-month battle he was reinstated. The company doctor, Dr. Steven G. McCloy, received poor ratings on vitals.com, a clearinghouse for doctor reviews: www.vitals.com/doctors/Dr_Steven_Mccloy#reviews . The doctor also has no website and no one answered the phone at his office.
So, now that the members of Local 4543 are standing up for their rights and voting down a regressive contract proposal by a margin of 115-8, Ms. Igoe isn’t exactly looking for members to be so comradely. All along the company has been trying to divide and conquer; pitting older versus younger employees by trying to change contract language regarding seniority.
The membership stands firm though; showing that a group of workers from disparate backgrounds, from the old French Canadian and polish populations to longtime transplants from Portugal and the Azores and newer immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa all have the same thing in mind – being rewarded for the hard work that helped the company they work for become one of the best in its industry.
For more info on working conditions at the plant, watch this YouTube video: