Roquette union employees locked out from jobs

Keokuk's unemployment numbers jumped by nearly 250 people Wednesday, September 29th.

Instead of heading to work at the Roquette plant Wednesday morning, union employees went to the unemployment line.

After the Local 48G union rejected Roquette America, Inc.'s best and final contract offer Tuesday, September 28th, all union employees have been locked out of the plant.

KHQA's Jarod Wells found out what's next for employees, the plant and the community.

If union employees showed up for work Wednesday, they weren't allowed in.

4 year Roquette union employee Amy Howell said, "Trying to figure out what to do next, where to go, what's available for us out there."

31 year Roquette union employee Todd Miller said, "You just have to roll with the punches and do what you have to do."

For some, that means signing up for unemployment.

Howell said, "It kind of puts a strain on everything. Wondering how you're going to pay your next bill or when your benefits are going to come in or if you're even going to be available for your benefits."

Roquette says it won't cut production during the lockout.

Miller said, "When I went in this morning to report for work they had a bus full of replacement workers that they were bringing into the plant. And that didn't really set with me too well."

Despite bringing in temps, Roquette says it is willing to continue negotiations with the union.

Aliza Golan said, "Since the BCTGM (Local 48G Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union) rejected the company's fair and reasonable offer for a contract and because they were unavailable for meetings for almost a month, RAI (Roquette America, Inc.) could not responsibly allow the union represented employees to continue to work with out a contract."

Keokuk's unemployment rate is above 10%, which is one of the highest in the state, Mayor Tom Marion hopes the two sides get back to the table and get things settled quickly.

Mayor Tom Marion said, "We don't want to see people unemployed. These are decent paying jobs, but I can understand both sides. It's a terrible economic time to be going through this situation."

Jarod was told by some union members that Local 48G has sent Roquette a list of questions and issues dealing with the proposed contract.

They said the proposal was very open ended.

Aliza Golan with Roquette says the company has not received that list.

In a release Wednesday afternoon, Roquette says it has offered to call in a federal mediator to assist with negotiations, but the union says it has no interest in that offer.