Continental Carbon, PACE union reach agreement at Ponca City plant

Saturday, December 4th 2004, 11:43 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Union workers at a carbon black facility in northern Oklahoma have reached an agreement with the company that will allow employees to return after a 3 1/2 year lockout.

Continental Carbon Company announced Friday it had finalized a deal with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy (PACE) Workers International Union for production and maintenance workers to return to the job at the company's Ponca City plant.

The plant, which has been in operation since 1954, manufactures carbon black, a component of tires and other rubber and plastic products.

Specific details of the five-year agreement weren't released, but the agreement brings to an end a long and often contentious dispute between the company and the union.

``We believe it to be a positive situation for both our members and the company,'' said Todd Carlson, president of PACE Local 5-857 in Ponca City.

``I think it was an acceptance of concessions on both sides that finally brought us together and a willingness on both sides to finally end the dispute.''

Carlson was one of several union officials who initiated a hunger strike in Taiwan this summer after talks broke down with the Taiwan-based parent companies of Continental Carbon, which operates the facility in Ponca City.

The union has also joined in a lawsuit against the company, alleging environmental concerns at the plant and the surrounding area.

Carlson said he doesn't believe the new agreement will impact the pending lawsuit.

The lockout of 86 PACE union workers began in May 2001 when the company asked for wage and benefit concessions.

Officials with Continental Carbon said they have successfully negotiated collective bargaining agreements with three other PACE local unions and with a local unit of the United Steelworkers of America.

In a statement, Continental Carbon President Kim K.T. Pan said the agreement is good news for the company, employees and the local community.

``We welcome our employees back to work,'' Pan said. ``We have a lot of catching up to do.''

The company and the union also agreed separately to a deal that sets up a process and timeline for notifying union members and getting them back on the job.

It will likely be three to four weeks before the first union workers are back on the job, Carlson said.