HAYESVILLE -- The Hayesville Custom Hoists union employees, who had been on strike for six weeks over a contract dispute, returned to work Monday.
The approximately 70 union workers return after a series of contract proposals and rejections. The union rejected Custom Hoist’s initial contract proposal in June, submitted a proposal of its own to the company, and then rejected Custom Hoists's counter proposal on July 12.
“We kept talking back and forth with the company and mid-last week we were able to get to a tentative agreement,” said Brian Sealy, staff representative for United Steelworkers District 1.
The union voted Friday morning to approve the contract under the new agreement terms, which included an essential worker bonus, a smaller gap between the two-tier wage scale and lower healthcare costs, Sealy said. He declined to provide numerical values for the aforementioned items.
In a statement, Custom Hoists president Mike Kuharik confirmed the workers' return.
“Our dedication to this community and the people who work for us has always been unwavering,” Kuharik stated in a press release. “We’ve been here for a half a century and many of our workers have been with us for 20 to 30 years.
“It’s been a challenge to balance their requests and remain competitive, but we were able to make it work.”
Custom Hoists declined to share further details about the agreement.
Another main sticking point during recent negotiations involved when the new contract would end.
Custom Hoists wanted to move the future termination date of the contract from May to June, adding six weeks because of the time the workers were on strike, Sealy said. The union workers did not want this change, and Custom Hoists ultimately agreed to leave the termination date as usual, in May, Sealy said.
Regarding workers' complaints throughout the strike about working conditions, Sealy said he did not have a comment, as the the union and company determined there were no major issues, he said.
Following the July 12 counter proposal rejection, Kuharik had written in a statement to Ashland Source that Custom Hoists would hire replacement workers if the union did not reconsider its most recent offer. Sealy is glad the two entities were able to come to a mutual agreement, he said.
"A strike does nobody good in the long run, but in some cases it is warranted," Sealy said. "I think the company listened to the workers in the end."