Union 'overwhelmingly' rejects Roquette's final contract offer

Union employees of Roquette America's Keokuk Plant overwhelmingly rejected a final contract offer Tuesday, September 28th.

Roquette says those workers are now locked out of their jobs.

We've already heard reports from Tuesday afternoon that workers who showed up for their afternoon shift were turned away.

KHQA's Jarod Wells reports both sides disagreed over benefits and wages.

Aliza Golan, Roquette PR, said, "Roquette America's contract proposal consisted of changes to our current contract that will assist us in improving our relative competitive position in our market."

More than 200 Local 48G BCTGM union members met with representatives for several hours here at Keokuk's Grand Theater to discuss the details of Roquette's final contract offer.

Golan said, "If they fail to ratify the proposed contract however, there will be no work for our union employees."

That means union employees are now locked out of their jobs. Aliza Golan says the company is committed to its workforce stability, its employees and the Keokuk community.

Golan said, "To meet the growing needs of our customers and stricter government regulations, Roquette America must improve our industrial performance. Due to the global economic crisis, the competitive environment has changed since our last contract which was in 2006."

Jarod spoke with Local 48G Union President Steve Underwood about Roquette's final contract proposal.

Underwood said, "Benefits is a big issue. They're trying to utilize temporary workers and create a two tier wage system."

Underwood says the union is willing to continue working towards an agreement with Roquette.

229 union members were signed in for the contract vote Tuesday.

Keokuk's Roquette Plant employs about 550 people, and about 250 are union members.

Aliza Golan with Roquette says the plant is prepared to function without those members.

The following is a news release from Roquette America, Inc.:

Roquette disappointed in BCTGM rejection of contract

Roquette America, Inc. announces with great regret that it was unable to reach agreement on a new contract with members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union " Local 48G (the BCTGM). The Company viewed their last, best and final offer as reasonable and fair, demonstrating our commitment to workforce stability, including an offer for competitive wages with increases in total compensation and no proposed layoffs.

Tom Ross, Roquette TMs Human Resources Director said, We are disappointed that despite Roquette TMs best efforts, the Company and BCTGM could not achieve a mutual agreement to avoid this labor dispute. We were advised today that the BCTGM was unwilling to accept the terms of the Company TMs fair and responsible proposal for a new contract which would have the practical impact of increasing total compensation and retirement benefits for Roquette TMs represented employees. The BCTGM TMs unfortunate decision is directly impacting our employees, their families, as well as our local communities. The comprehensive contract presented by the Company was intended to create an environment which would allow our employees to constantly improve their skills while optimizing the utilization of Company resources. The Company TMs offer would also prepare Roquette for the future to meet the needs of our customers with unique products and innovative solutions that are created and produced in Keokuk through efficient and cost effective processes.

Dominique Taret, Roquette TMs CEO added, As RAI strategically prepares for the long-term, we recognize and appreciate the hard work and extra effort put forth by all of our employees. It would have been preferable to have reached a mutually beneficial agreement with our represented employees. However, in choosing to reject the Company TMs offer for a fair and reasonable contract, the BCTGM has placed us in the necessary position of replacing union employees with temporary workers so that we can protect our business and ensure long-term business sustainability.

Taret went on to say, While Roquette remains committed to reaching agreement on a new contract with the BCTGM Local-48G, the Company is putting in place additional contingency plans to continue to produce and deliver high quality products and services for uninterrupted supply to market.

Roquette is proud of the work that our negotiating and support teams have done in an attempt to conclude these negotiations in fair and equitable manner. The Company communicated its goals with the BCTGM at the onset of the negotiations and believes that the comprehensive contract proposal delivered would reward our represented employees for their contributions to our success while assisting us in improving our relative competitive position in the market.

About Roquette America, Inc.

Roquette America, Inc. is a subsidiary of the privately held Roquette Frres, headquartered in Lestrem, France. The company is a global leading processor of renewable raw materials such as corn and other grains into solutions for the pharmaceutical, human nutrition, animal nutrition, paper, fermentation and industrial markets. Roquette America TMs manufacturing facility in Keokuk, Iowa produces corn-based starches and syrups and polyols used in many food and beverage applications as well as in pharmaceuticals, paper products, cosmetics and agricultural goods. It also operates a manufacturing plant in Gurnee, Illinois. Roquette is constantly working on new and innovative ingredients that broaden the window for formulators to develop new products for existing and emerging markets.