2 min read.Updated: 14 Nov 2021, 08:33 PM ISTBOB TITA, The Wall Street Journal
Union says new offer has modest modifications to previous offer voted down Nov. 2
Deere & Co. and the United Auto Workers union reached a third tentative agreement on a contract in the latest bid to end a strike at the agricultural and construction equipment maker that started Oct. 14.
The UAW, which represents more than 10,000 Deere production and maintenance employees, said the latest offer included “modest modifications" to a proposal that union members rejected Nov. 2 by a margin of 55% to 45%. Workers also turned down an offer on Oct. 10.
Deere confirmed that a new agreement had been reached, but a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment further.
Neither the union nor the company revealed details in advance of the union’s briefing of its members. The timing for a ratification vote also wasn’t released.
Following the rejection of the previous offer, Deere executives said the Moline, Ill.-based company wouldn’t raise it or bargain further on economic issues. Deere has stepped up its messaging to striking workers in recent days, urging them to reconsider their rejection of the six-year offer.
The company’s prior offer included an immediate 10% increase in hourly pay, plus an $8,500 bonus for each worker. Additional 5% pay raises were proposed for 2023 and 2025, and lump sum bonuses in three other years. Deere had said that offer represented a $3.5 billion investment in compensation for the workers.
Striking employees have said Deere should provide bigger raises and benefit expansions at a time when the company’s farm and construction equipment sales are booming, and other manufacturers are offering significant pay increases and benefits to attract scarce workers.
Deere employees have said they felt empowered to push for better terms this year, versus negotiations in past years when equipment sales were slower or general economic conditions were weaker. Deere has forecast about $5.8 billion in income for its full fiscal year, compared with $2.8 billion in 2020 and $3.3 billion in 2019.
Strikes at Deere and other U.S. companies have occurred in the midst of a tight labor market and rising inflation, prompting workers to push for higher wages and other compensation that they say have been restrained at companies for years. The strike at Deere followed recent walkouts at snack company Mondelez International Inc., commercial-truck maker Volvo and breakfast-cereal company Kellogg Co.
As the Deere strike continues, farmers and agricultural equipment dealers have worried that deliveries of new machinery could be delayed at a time when the availability of tractors and harvesters already have been stretched by supply-chain problems.
Deere executives have said they are considering sourcing equipment and replacement parts from the company’s overseas plants as the strike drags on. Deere dealers said the company has been shipping some equipment and parts that were stocked in warehouses. Supervisors and other nonunion employees have been finishing some machinery that was mostly assembled at the time of the walkout.