Inside INdiana Business

FireKing workers in New Albany strike over wages, health care costs

(photo courtesy of the Teamsters Local No. 89)

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Nearly 90 union workers at FireKing International LLC in New Albany went on strike Monday after rejecting a “best and final proposal” for a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Teamsters Local No. 89 claim the company’s offer “failed to keep wages up with inflation or the industry standard” and “failed to address serious inadequacies in the company’s healthcare plan.”

FireKing, which manufactures products such as safes and filing and storage cabinets, employs a total of 141 employees in New Albany, including 86 Teamsters. The company says its final offer presented to the union last Wednesday would “increase employee benefits and pay across the board.”

The proposal included what the company said was its highest first-year wage increase in its history and increasing hourly wages in each year of the contract. Additionally, the company said it would reduce the amount employees contribute to health insurance costs.

The union claims its members “have been paying excessively high premiums and out-of-pocket costs” with deductibles ranging from $3,000 to $13,700 depending on the plan.

The Teamsters proposed moving to a union-sponsored health care plan known as TeamCare, saying it would come with a “minimal cost for the company.”

“In fact, Local 89 went out of its way to adapt the plan to make it more palatable to the Company by allowing them to incorporate their management and non-union employees into it so that they wouldn’t have to deal with separate plans,” the union said in a statement on its website. “Yet the Company still rejected this plan.”

FireKing fired back saying the TeamCare plan would increase its costs by six figures in the first year alone and would limit its ability to secure the lowest prices available on the open market.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Union has chosen to go down this path,” FireKing CEO Rick Mejia said in written remarks. “We negotiated in good faith with the union for several weeks, resulting in a very fair and competitive final proposal for the Union Membership.”

While the union workers are on strike, FireKing says many nonunion workers could be “repurposed” to keep up production.

“While we continue to hope Union leadership will reconsider our proposal, FireKing is now adjusting operations to maintain the productivity of our business and our service to customers. We are taking immediate steps to return our facilities to normal business operations and will begin advertising for permanent replacement employees,” Mejia said. “We would much prefer to operate FireKing with our regular employees, but we have no choice but to hire permanent replacements to maintain production.”

The union says it will continue to seek dates for negotiations with the company as the strike continues.