(This report has been updated with comment from Viatris.)
MORGANTOWN — The United Steelworkers has released the details of the severance agreement between Viatris and Local 8-957, which represents about 850 employees at what is still known as the Mylan plant on Chestnut Ridge Road.
The International provided a copy of the local’s membership update issued last week that provides the outline of the agreement.
The update prefaces the details with these comments: “Bargaining over the effects of a shutdown completely changes the dynamics of bargaining. In short, the union faces a more difficult time because its usual leverage points are taken away.
“Despite this, we were able to leverage the solidarity and support you gave us into the agreement we are describing below. We are confident that we negotiated the best agreement possible and left nothing on the table.”
Among the highlights in the membership update:
Each employee will receive two weeks of regular straight-time pay for every year of service, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. No one, regardless of years of service, will receive less than 12 weeks of severance pay. Severance pay will be paid at normal pay dates, not a lump sum.
Health care will continue for the same length of time as severance payments, as part of COBRA, the federal law that governs continuation of benefits connected to job loss. Viatris will subsidize the entire cost of COBRA premiums for the severance period. Prescription drugs will continue to be provided until March 17, 2023 — which is the duration of the existing collective bargaining agreement.
The Dominion Post has reported that the Viatris WARN notice says 1,431 employees will be laid off or separated. The initial July 31 separation will involve 482 non-union workers and 764 union workers — a total of 1,246 — leaving 185. Further separations are expected Aug. 31, Oct. 31, Dec. 31 and next March 31.
The membership update references that, saying, “There is a limited amount of work that will continue after the facility is closed. Your Local Bargaining Committee worked with Local management to determine how this work will be filled. Generally, the positions will be filled by volunteers who will be asked in order of seniority” and in order of specified groups.
USW Local 8-957 President Joe Gouzd said of the agreement, “I think the severance package is no better than average. It is nowhere near what corporate employees have gotten with little to no experience.”
While union and corporate workers get along well, union workers have noted on many occasions, as an example, that a beginning non-union French fry cook was offered a larger severance than a union worker with 12 years.
“I don’t think that the union members have been dealt with in a respectful manner, that’s my opinion,” Gouzd said. “I also believe that there is more for Viatris to give, and that they did not want to give to the people. And once again, the working class are put out by the common practices of trying to hold vengeance against the union workers.”
Viatris verified the nature of the agreement in an email exchange, saying, “Impacted employees will receive between three months to one year of salary and medical benefits based upon years of service.”
In a statement released when the severance agreement was announced, Viatris said, “It has always been our intent to provide generous comprehensive severance packages for all of those impacted in an effort to help ease the transition for them and their families. We especially appreciate all those with long and respected tenures who helped pave the way for the company’s growth in its early years.”
TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp