Gulf States, union still in negotiations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A new contract for union employees at Gulf States Paper Corp. could be ready in the next few weeks, according to a Gulf States spokesman.

Dan Meissner, spokesman for the Tuscaloosa-based paper company, said negotiations between Gulf States and officials from the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union continue. Meissner, however, could not elaborate on the direction of those negotiations.

“There’s no real status change to report right now,” he said. “[Negotiations] started back about a week after the union vote, and they are continuing during periodic meetings.”

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On Jan. 8, union members at Gulf States in Demopolis rejected a new contract from the company. Though union spokesman Emory Barnette could not elaborate on the points of disagreement, most contracts like this deal with wages and employee benefits. No one has publicly offered specifics to the contract or reasons for the failed union vote earlier this month.

“It wouldn’t be right to characterize how the negotiations are going,” Meissner said. “What could be good for one side may not be good for the other side. Because of that, all I can say is that negotiations are continuing.”

As agreements are arranged, Meissner does believe a new contract could be submitted to union members soon.

“The next major step in the process will be to have another proposal submitted for a union vote,” he said. “I think that could happen sometime in February.”

After union members voted down Gulf State’s initial contract offer, both Meissner and Barnette said each side would continue negotiations in good faith.

Upon voting down the contract, Barnette said the PACE union would work in good faith with Gulf States.

“… And I expect us to find a resolution to the contract,” he said.

Tuesday, Meissner reiterated that pledge.

“We certainly are still committed to bargaining in good faith,” he said. “We’re committed to finding and reaching a mutual agreement.”

Once a new contract is developed, union members at Gulf States will again vote on the proposal. If that contract is not accepted, all indications are that union and company officials would continue more negotiations.