By Steve Jagler Special to Published Sep 04, 2009 at 8:01 PM

Voting of the third time, members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local 1947 in Fond du Lac approved a "best and final" contract offer from Mercury Marine today.

The union's vote effectively preserves 850 production jobs at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac. Had the union not approved the concessions in the new contract, the company threatened to move the jobs to its non-union plant in Stillwater, Okla.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle had said Mercury Marine could add more than 600 jobs in Fond du Lac if the company decides to stay and take advantage of state tax incentives in the Badger State. "After weeks of intense discussions and completion of the voting process, we accept the union's ratification of our contract proposal," said Mark Schwabero, president of Mercury Marine. "As we've stated throughout this important process, comprehensive changes to wages, benefits and operational flexibility are necessary for Mercury to effectively compete in a smaller and fundamentally changed marketplace."

Consolidation of work in Fond du Lac will include transition of work from the company's Stillwater facilities over the next 18-24 months. Schwabero thanked the Stillwater community and Mercury Marine employees for their support.

"Our employees in Stillwater and Fond du Lac, as well as the communities and the states of Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have been very supportive throughout this challenging period," Schwabero said. "In both locations, community and business leaders as well as our employees have done everything possible to help ensure a sustainable future for Mercury Marine. We want to thank each of them for their commitment and focus, particularly during these last two months."

The company's offer originally was overwhelmingly rejected by union members on Aug. 23, but some of them called for a second vote last weekend. The second round of voting was cancelled when the company refused to acknowledge it.

The company then agreed to allow the union members to vote a third time on the proposal. That voting was concluded today at 6 p.m.

Sources close to the negotiations said the company won several concessions from the union in the new contract, even though the two parties had agreed to a previous contract last year.

Among the concessions:

* Starting pay for new hires and recalled employees will be reduced from about $22 per hour to $12.50.
* New and recalled employees will pay a substantially higher share of their health care insurance costs.
*Paid holidays for new and recalled employees will be reduced from 13 to 11 per year.
* The company will determine when overtime work is mandatory, not the union.


Steve Jagler Special to

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at