Sign of Trouble?

By: Gary Loe
By: Gary Loe

Morristown (WVLT) - Union workers at the Vacumet Corporation in Hamblen County are on the job Wednesday, but still concerned that they may soon lose their jobs. The concern stems from an ad run by Vacumet, in a local newspaper, looking for replacement workers.

Vacumet union workers say they were told to be ready to walk off the job, if the latest contract negotiations failed.

"We're just going to walk the picket line if we have to, hope we don't have to," Vacumet employee Ronald Lee says.

Workers say a second offer is on the table a day of contract talks, but it's unclear it's acceptable to the union.

The Vacumet Corporation GM told Volunteer TV by phone, from his Massachusetts office that 90 of the Morristown plant's 140 employees are affected by the negotiations. They belong to United Steelworkers Union Local 5-0733.

Workers here make metallized paper products used in packaging, including baseball cards, balloons, and gift wrap.

Clients include TV Guide, and toymakers Parker Brothers and Hasbro.

Union Employees show up for work, as usual, but many are upset by a want ad listed in the Morristown Citizen Tribune, calling for replacement employees, due to a potential labor strike.

"It's tense because we don't know if we're going to have a job today or not," Lee says.

Vacumet General Manager Tom Kura says, quote "The company remains hopeful that we can strike a deal and go forward. The newspaper ad is a provision for planning purposes only. There's no change in pursuing contract negotiations...the ad is only contingency planning."

Neither company officials, nor workers would discuss details of the contract negotiations.

"It's not about money or anything, it's about the language the company's trying to impose on us," Lee says.

Vacumet and the Steelworkers Union are in negotiations for a multi-year contract...the recently expired contract ran four years.

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