OZARK – The Wiregrass’ largest employer is back in business.
Workers at Army Fleet Support in Daleville ended a weeklong strike by approving a new contract Sunday from parent company L-3 Communications.
Represented by the International Association of Machinists Local 2003, 92 percent of the voting workers approved the new contract, negotiations for which involved the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Cheers and laughter were heard as workers exited the Ozark Civic Center after voting Sunday afternoon.
“We have a five-year contract and we’re really proud of it,” said Bob Wood, a regional communications representative for the union. “We will be going back to work first shift (Monday) morning, and the strike is now officially over.”
Nearly 3,000 people will return to work for AFS on Monday morning.
Terry Kurasz, who has been contracting for 28 years, said he opted to strike because of language in the previously proposed contract involving overtime and health insurance.
“I’m not totally satisfied, but I’m ready to go back to work,” he said.
According to a press release from L-3 Communications Army Fleet Support, the new contract lasts through April 28, 2019.
"This new agreement enables the AFS and IAM team to continue providing our world-class aviation logistical support for the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force institutional training on Fort Rucker,” AFS Vice President and General Manager Lowell Green said in the release.
Wood said the only economic changes in the contract involved turning the lump sum bonus into a half-percent raise and freezing the health insurance for two years instead of one year.
The bigger changes, he said, came in language dealing with specific on-the-job treatment.
“This was about respect on the job and dignity,” he said, describing wording in the rejected contract that “hurt” overtime distribution and seniority. “There were a lot of problems on the shop floor that we were able to fix in this (new) contract. They changed how the overtime was distributed. It’s a more fair and equitable system now.”
Wood said the new deal replaces much of the language that was changed from the previously existing contract to the one rejected by the union a week ago.
For 11-year worker Richard Green, it was about seniority.
“It was about my seniority rights and some overtime issues,” Green said. “The training aspect (previously proposed) would be locking people into fields and not letting them be able to move. (I liked the) training issues being resolved and the overtime being where you can choose when you wanted to work or not.”
The strike was ultimately worth the time and effort for Green.
“We showed that we do have solidarity in our unit,” he said. “I was a little worried about it in the beginning, but in the end it resolved. I’m so glad, because I’m getting married in three weeks.”
Adam Beasley has been working on a contract basis for 14 years, and he was ecstatic after the vote.
“The strike was about being treated fairly at the workplace and no takeaways from our current contract language,” Beasley said. “They straightened out all the bad language they had proposed last time. It’s going to be a much greater place to work. We had awesome community support.”