NEW YORK — The ILGWU said Tuesday its negotiators had reached agreement on a new three-year contract with six major associations representing coat, suit, dress, rainwear and children’s wear manufacturers in the Northeast.
The new pact provides significant increases in employer contributions to the union’s health and welfare fund and a 10 percent wage hike over three years, the union said. It directly covers nearly 20,000 workers in New York, New Jersey, New England and eastern Pennsylvania.
Union leaders view the pact as the pattern for settlements involving all 90,000 workers in the Northeastern women’s outer apparel industry. Current contracts for most of these workers expire May 31.
Under the new agreement, employers’ contributions to the health and welfare fund will rise from the current 7.5 percent of payroll to 9 percent on July 1, 1995, and to 9.5 percent on July 1, 1996. In addition, employers will contribute another 0.5 percent effective July 1, 1997 to the ILGWU’s health services plan, which provides prescription drug coverage.
“It was a real breakthrough agreement,” said an ILGWU spokesman. “Health care for garment workers had been placed in serious jeopardy.”
The union began charging members a co-payment for individual coverage for the first time in the fund’s 40-year history in 1993. Despite this and an aggressive program of cost containment, the fund has continued to operate with huge deficits, the spokesman said. Wages for most workers under the new agreement will rise 4 percent effective June 6, 1994, 3 percent on June 5, 1995, and 3 percent on June 3, 1995. Wages in ILGWU shops now average between $7.50 and $8.50 an hour.
The agreement also contains a new code of conduct that will hold U.S. manufacturers accountable for insuring fair labor standards for their overseas production contractors.
The six employer associations agreeing to the new pact are the New York Raincoat Manufacturers, the Association of Rain Apparel, the New York Coat and Suit Association, the Infants’ and Children’s Coat and Sportswear Association, Apparel Manufacturers Inc. and the Affiliated Dress Manufacturers.
Negotiations on new contracts involving 45 employer associations in the Northeast began in March. Eleven ILGWU local and regional affiliates bargain separately with employers.