Momentive Performance Materials has drafted temporary contractors in dispute over benefits

A strike by roughly 700 workers at a Momentive Performance Materials chemical plant in upstate New York, US, has gone on for 30 days. Union members went on strike on 2 November over proposed cuts in health insurance, retirement benefits and vacation time.

Momentive says its goal throughout the contract negotiations has been to reach ‘a fair, market-based package’ for its employees, while also enabling Momentive to remain competitive. The company says it has engaged in five months of contract talks and remains open to continuing good faith negotiations with the union bargaining team.

In the meantime, Momentive says it will continue operations. The company has hired temporary replacement workers who have been trained and qualified according to the same standards of its own employees. ‘The majority of our replacement workers have prior experience working in chemical plants,’ Momentive stated. ‘We remain committed to protecting our employees, the community and the environment and will continue to operate this facility in a manner that is safe and compliant with all laws and regulations.’

However, union president Dominick Patrignani, a hazardous materials specialist, is concerned that Momentive is allowing unqualified workers to run dangerous manufacturing operations. ‘This is a facility that uses vast amounts of chemicals in all types of around-the-clock manufacturing processes,’ he stated, noting that the hazmat experts now on strike train weekly in order to be prepared to respond to and mitigate environmental and public health incidences.