By Ken Sturtz, Thanks to Ben Davis of the United Steelworkers
A US federal agency has again ordered Novelis Inc. (a aluminum products manufacturer) to recognise the United Steelworkers union as the collective-bargaining representative for hundreds of workers.
In decision a three-person panel from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed with the findings of an administrative law judge. The panel said Novelis engaged in unfair labuor practices when workers campaigned to unionise several years ago at the massive aluminum products plant, which had never before had a union.
Â The decision said that Novelis violated the law in the following ways:Â
- Threatening employees with job loss if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
- Threatening employees with a reduction in wages if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
- Threatening employees with more difficult working conditions if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
- Threatening employees by telling them that they did not have to work for Novelis if they were unhappy with their terms and conditions of employment.
- Threatening an employee with layoff if employees selected the union as their bargaining representative.
- Threatening employees that Novelis would lose business if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
- Misrepresenting that the union was seeking to have Novelis rescind employees’ pay and/or benefits and blaming the union by telling employees that they would have to pay back wages retroactively as a result of unfair labor practice charges filed by the union.
- Interrogating employees about their union membership, activities, and sympathies.â¨ Prohibiting employees from wearing union insignia on their uniforms while permitting employees to wear anti-union and other insignia.
- Maintaining an overly broad work rule that unlawfully interfered with employees’ use of the Novelis email system for lawful purposes.
- Selectively and disparately enforcing the company’s posting and distribution rules by prohibiting union postings and distributions while permitting nonunion and anti-union postings and distributions.
- Removing union literature from mixed use areas.
- Granting wage increases and benefits in order to discourage employees from selecting union representation.
- Soliciting grievances and promising to remedy them in order to discourage employees from selecting union representation.
- Maintaining and giving effect to its overly broad unlawful social media policy.
The NLRB ordered Novelis to reinstate Everett Abare, who it said Novelis demoted over a union-related Facebook post. The company is to make up any lost earnings or benefits. They were also ordered to rescind or modify their unlawful social media policy.
Â In addition, the NLRB ordered Novelis to do the following:Â
- On request by the union, rescind the changes to Sunday premium pay and unscheduled overtime for its unit employees that were implemented on Jan. 9, 2014.
- Rescind the overly broad work rule that unlawfully interferes with employees’ use of the Novelis email system.
- Furnish employees with an insert for the current employee handbook that (1) advises that the unlawful provision has been rescinded, or (2) provides a lawfully wordedâ¨provision on adhesive backing that will cover the unlawful provision; or publish and distribute to employees revised employee handbooks that (1) do not contain the unlawfulâ¨provision, or (2) provide a lawfully worded provision.
- Recognise and, on request, bargain with the union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative, retroactive to Jan. 9th, 2014.â¨ Within 14 days after service by the Region, post at its facility in Oswego copies of the attached notice marked “Appendix.” In addition to physical posting of paper notices, notices shall be distributed electronically, such as by email.
Novelis could appeal the NLRB decision in federal court.
The showdown between the aluminum products manufacturer and the United Steelworkers began in 2013 after the company did away with Sunday premium pay and its practice of letting workers use personal time on Sundays as time worked. Workers began efforts to unionize in early 2014 and Novelis reversed its decision.
The NLRB said Novelis waged an illegal campaign against unionisation, which helped tip the balance in a close vote on whether to organize.
With nearly 900 workers, Novelis is one of Oswego County’s biggest employers. In recent years the company has added jobs and pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into expansions at the plant to make aluminum panels for automobiles. But critics say Novelis has also reduced pay and benefits.
The Steelworkers represents workers at four other Novelis plants in North America – Terre Haute, Ind.; Fairmont, W. Va.; Kingston, Ontario; and Toronto. The Scriba plant, which was opened in 1963 by Alcan Inc., has never had a union, however.
Novelis spun off from Alcan in 2005 and was acquired in 2007 by Aditya Birla Group, a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai, India.