Agreement brings with it a sense of relief, business representative said

The union representing more than 1,800 electrical workers at Ameren Corp.’s Illinois operations has approved a five-year contract.


 


International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 51, which includes Peoria, as well as locals 309, 702 and 1306 approved the pact, with 55 percent of members voting for approval while 45 percent voted no, said Jim Bates, business representative of Local 51, from his Springfield office on Friday.


 


"Workers get a wage increase in each year while some work rule changes provide the company with more flexibility," he said.


 


The union’s contract with Ameren expired June 30 but had been extended several times as bargaining continued.


 


"There’s a sense of relief. With a close vote, there’s always a lot of anxiety," said Bates, noting that had members turned the contract down, a strike could have followed after a final 10-day negotiation period.


 


"Negotiations just went on too long," Bates said of bargaining sessions between the union and company that began in April.


 


Ameren spokesman Neal Johnson said that while negotiations took some time, the end result was positive.


 


"We’re pleased that the contract was ratified. Negotiations never broke down. There was continued progress. We had positive results at the end," he said.


 


Johnson also applauded IBEW members for their efforts during recent storms when electrical lines went down in various parts of the state.


 


"These guys have gone above and beyond with these ice storms. We have some dedicated workers in the IBEW," he said.


 


More than 96 percent of Local 51 members voted down a previous contract offer in August, when Ameren reportedly proposed a five-year contract with 3 percent raises in each of the first four years and 3.25 percent in the fifth year. That proposal also included job security for the term of the contract for those already in the bargaining unit.


 


Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.