By  on May 31, 1994

NEW YORK -- The ILGWU's new labor contract, approved so far by six of the industry's 45 trade associations, is drawing fire.

With the current contract expiring at midnight tonight, the largest associations that have yet to sign are the New York Skirt and Sportswear Association, whose membership employs an estimated 15,000 workers, and the Greater Blouse, Skirt & Undergarment Association, whose members employ some 25,000 people.

Industry executives feel the union has gone too far in its demands, and say it's going to further erode the New York manufacturing base, which in 20 years has fallen from 400,000 garment workers to 90,000.

As reported, the union and trade groups representing coat, suit, dress, rainwear and children's manufacturers reached an accord last week on a new three-year contract.

The industry has not had a general strike since 1958 and there has been little indication from either labor or management that there will be one this time. Historically, the ILGWU has reached similar terms with all associations. Still, the unsigned trade groups have expressed resistance to the terms agreed upon last week.

Eli Elias, president of the skirt and sportswear association, said his organization and the union are far apart and cannot agree to the same terms signed last week by the six associations.

Paul Lau, general manager of Greater Blouse, said his group is making modest progress in negotiations, but there are still "some major obstacles."

The deal calls for a 10 percent wage increase over three years, and a hike in the employer's contributions to the union's health and welfare fund 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 union's health services plan, which provides prescription drug coverage.

The last contract, negotiated in 1991, saw wage increases of 4 percent a year for three years, and contributions to the medical plan rise a total of 1.5 percent over three years.

While some management groups have agreed to the wage and benefit package, others are still trying to hammer out a deal.

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