Inside, Outside

Contracting strategies for a new economy.

By Bob Sperber, editor at large, Plant Services

Once there was a plant, heavy with United Steelworkers (USW) members. Business slipped, and the company started down the path of restructuring. Guess what happened?

Collective bargaining negotiations broke down. Union members said there was no way the plant could be run without them. “We maintained that it could be, although we'd rather it be with them,” says a manager with the contract firm that took over all maintenance operations. “Despite our repeated efforts, the unions decided they would not talk to us.”

Union: busted. More than 100 new employees were hired and today, according to the contractor, “Maintenance metrics have never been better and production has never been higher.”

Stories like this have been the extreme exception to the rule, say contractors, but fears of such horror stories are rising and haven’t been this prevalent since (you may repeat this aloud) the Great Depression.

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