Archive for March, 2007

Wayne Engineering to Raise Wages, Expand

March 22, 2007

**Originally posted in the Waterloo Courier**

CEDAR FALLS — Business and working conditions continue to improve at Wayne Engineering, three months after a change in ownership following a bankruptcy auction.

Some 55 employees at the plant who are affiliated with United Auto Workers Local 838 have a new three-year labor contract. The agreement comes after going without one for a year during bankruptcy proceedings.

The contract calls for raises each year totaling $1.50 an hour across the board over the life of the agreement. It also creates an all-new profit sharing plan, resumes company 401(k) retirement contributions and stabilizes health insurance costs.

“I think it’s the best contract there’s ever been at Wayne,” said Bill Miller, chairman of the UAW Local 838 bargaining unit. “We had guys come up — 30 years, 32 years — that said, ‘Damn good contract.'”

Company president Kevin Watje also reports production has doubled. The company plans on hiring about 20 additional workers over the next six months. The company employs about 75 people.

Wayne also plans to start a 15,000-square-foot, $500,000 expansion in April to accommodate manufacturing lines for new products.

Watje is CEO of Wayne Industrial Holdings, the concern that bought Wayne Engineering at auction in January. A competing bid included the Worthington family, which founded the company and had managed it for four decades.

Watje said Wayne Industrial Holdings is looking at addition acquisitions for the purpose of bringing them to Cedar Falls.

The labor contact was overwhelmingly approved by the membership March 4, Miller said. Workers are making between $13 and $16 an hour, figuring in the first-year negotiated increases, but not counting overtime and added incentive bonuses.

“We’re looking at a new company that just started, and we’re looking at the best contract we’ve ever had. What’s the next contract going to be like?” said Thomas Newman of Evansdale, an employee and member of the bargaining committee.

“We’re dealing with people that respect us and want to grow the company and want us to grow with them,” Miller added.

Loren Brocka of Janesville also likes the deal.

“When they make money, they want everybody to share in it, and not just them,” the 12-year employee said.

The two sides reached an agreement in five negotiation sessions.

“I did thank the company on all our behalf for the respect shown us during the negotiations,” Miller said. “I said it was a new feeling, from a new company, and, hopefully, a new beginning.”

Brocka added Watje seems to want workers to have a say in decisions, something Miller also noticed.

“It’s not an edict, it’s a discussion,” Miller said.

Brocka estimates about 90 percent of employees are working overtime.

Watje said “employees really cranked up the production levels.”

“They didn’t do it by adding more people. The same number of people doubled production,” he said.

The plant actually lost staff in the ownership transition.

“We really had a pretty lean complement of employees, and they drove efficiency up, not just production up,” Watje said. “That’s pretty amazing. It just showed us what they can do, and it showed themselves what they can do.”

Incentive plans, including profit sharing, are structured accordingly.

“Everybody’s tuned into what are the overall goals of the company,” Watje said.

“Everyone’s on the same page. When we make more money, they make more money.”

Waterloo Courier Wayne Engineering