USW Union: Libbey Glass' $7 million offer to save jobs

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Libbey Glass is reportedly making a unique, albeit expensive offer to the United Steelworkers Union: Come up with seven-million dollars and we won't cut 160 to 175 union jobs at the Shreveport facility. That's the word from the union.

That USW Union Representative, J. David Broussard, said he's being put in an impossible position by Libbey Glass, especially when you consider the overall salary package for the union workers at the plant totals 18-million dollars a year.

Being asked to come up with seven million dollars would mean cutting nearly 39-percent of the workers pay, to make it happen. Broussard said he and the union do not have the authority to do that, even if they wanted to. So, Broussard said it looks like those layoffs will happen at the end of May 2013.

These images were taken during happier times for the 550 or so hourly employees inside the Libbey Glass plant in Shreveport. But on the very day (Thursday, 2/21/13) Libbey corporate announced record figures for the company in 2012, they also announced 200 jobs would be cut at the plant, including up to 175 union jobs. "Our question to them is why are you coming for this when you're making good profits," said Broussard.

Broussard explained that Libbey plans to remove and send some equipment from the Shreveport plant to a facility in Mexico, because one of its product lines is not performing well. "They're saying that the line they're cutting out was breaking even or losing a little money. It's a beer mug business."

We wanted to make every effort on this second day since news broke about the layoffs to speak with someone from Libbey Glass at the Shreveport facility. Susan Evans with human resources did meet with us in the lobby but said there would be no comment at all, at least not right now.

Broussard said these employees have already suffered through six straight years of wage concessions, along with frozen pensions for current employees and no pension at all for any new hires since 2009.

What remains now is what some describe as a climate of fear. "It probably is, you know, people just don't know who (is) going to lose their job and stuff. I'm sure there is fear because I fear for them," said Velma Kennon. She should know, after working at the plant for nearly 25 years.

Long-time employees like Kennon and also Mark Boone, who we also met leaving the plant, aren't too worried about their jobs, just yet. "I shouldn't be. I've been here a long time. They'd pretty much have to close the place up to get me out of here (laugh)," added Boone.

But for Broussard, he's now left negotiating what he can for those expected to lose their jobs, including severance pay and extended health benefits. "And maybe even some early-out incentives to see if we can't have some folks retire instead of get laid off and save a few of the jobs." Broussard said those talks will continue next week.

Broussard concluded that he and the union will try to reach out to the governor's office of economic development, to see if they can help save these jobs. But, Broussard also said if Libbey Glass is actually serious about their seven million dollar offer, then 'they' should contact the state, saying it would be a lot more effective coming from them.

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