Ferry Cap & Set Screw Co., the city’s eighth largest employer, is accusing some its workers of refusing to work overtime to protest the company’s decision to transfer their jobs from the Templar Industrial Park near Birdtown to a facility in Elyria.
The company, which manufactures screws and fasteners used by companies like Caterpillar Inc. to produce diesel engines, filed a request for injunction on Tuesday in U.S. District Court seeking to end what it believes is an illegal strike held in violation of its collective bargaining agreement.
In its complaint, Ferry Cap & Set Screw Co. stated that should the refusal to work overtime continue, it would jeopardize the company’s ability to fulfill customer orders in a timely manner and create a “dire” situation that could cease business operations altogether.
The injunction request was filed against 13 machine operators (incidentally, none of whom reside in the city), their union representative, and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, District Lodge 54.
The union represents 56 hourly production and maintenance workers at the facility. The city estimates the company has 120 employees in Lakewood.
Company announced equipment relocation a year ago
Doncasters Group Ltd., a global conglomerate and the owner of Ferry Cap & Set Screw Co., announced in February 2012 its intention to consolidate the operations of its fastener unit and relocate the heading equipment – the machines used to make screws and fasteners – and related personnel to its Nelson Stud Welding facility in Elyria. All employees would keep their jobs and seniority.
Doncasters indicated the move was necessary in order to create a structure based on Centers of Excellence, maximize its assets and become more competitive in the global market.
Union: Consolidation ‘just doesn’t smell right’
Within a month of the consolidation announcement, union representatives fired off a letter to Tariq Jesrai, Doncasters Group Ltd.’s chairman and chief executive officer, questioning the motives and financial sense behind the move.
The union expressed wariness that an important part of the very profitable Ferry Cap & Set Screw Co. would be disassembled to help prop up the bottom line of a lesser sister company.
The union suggested it would cost at least $1 million to relocate the equipment, and another $500,000 annually to transport parts between the two facilities, thereby diminishing any financial gain.
More pointedly, the union leveled a not-so-subtle threat and suggested if its members declined to relocate to Elyria to set-up and operate the machines, the company stood a greater than 50% chance of losing lucrative industrial customers due to supply disruptions.
The letter also contained a mention of concern about the use of consultants and managing directors who didn’t have the company’s best interests at heart.
Taken all together, “something just doesn’t smell right to us and we hope you feel the same way as well,” the letter concluded.
Union filed grievance over relocation of equipment
Since the relocation announcement was made, only two heading machines have been moved to Elyria.
The header machine operators, header wireman and auxiliary operators filed a grievance in August 2012 after one of the machines was removed during the prior month and claimed it violated terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
The grievance charged that the removal constituted a material change in the equipment available for production and could potentially impact wage hours and incentives.
In addition, it alleged an effort was being made to subcontract work to another facility “without sound economical justification” since the machine was not generating a greater output and was said to be inoperable at the time of the grievance.
The union members’ desired settlement included retroactive wages to December 2007, and the more generous hourly wage increases contained in the prior union contract.
The grievance is scheduled for arbitration next month.
Company demands union action to halt ‘economic pressure’
It is not clear from court documents when exactly workers at Ferry Cap and Set Screw Co. allegedly began to refuse to take part in overtime activities.
On January 18, the company’s director of operations, Steve Duplessis, sent a communication to union representative Jack K. Baker seeking an end to the situation.
In the missive, Duplessis accused the machine operators of “refusing to work overtime as part of a concert effort to put economic pressure” on the company. He suggested the action is regarded as an work stoppage in violation of the union contact that states, “There shall be no strikes, stoppages or slowdowns by the Union…”
Duplessis revealed the company is investigating the possibility of terminating the machine operators and taking action against the Union for breach of contract.
According to the contract, the operators’ annual salary is between $44,408 and $49,358.
He asked the Union to disavow the activities of the machine operators and to instruct them to “resume their normal work habits and accept overtime work in accordance with their usual practice.”
What’s the future of Ferry Cap and Set Screw Co. in Lakewood?
It’s not known exactly how many jobs are leaving Lakewood for Elyria, nor is it known what the move will mean for Ferry Cap and Set Screw Co.’s future in the city.
Union representative Jack K. Baker did not return telephone requests to comment on the situation. Ferry Screw representative Ed Huber also did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests to elaborate on the matter.
The company moved its headquarters to Lakewood in 2008, after spending more than 110 years on Scranton Road in the Flats. It employed about 160 people that year and leased about 140,000 square feet in the Lake Erie Building complex, according to a Plain Dealer report at the time.
Crain’s Cleveland Business reported the company filled in part of the 300,000 square feet of space vacated when Lake Erie Screw moved from the 500,000 square-foot complex to Frankfort, KY in 2004.