Amid strike, Omnova hiring temporary workers

August 11, 2010 2:29:00 PM



Omnova Solutions Inc. is hiring temporary workers to prepare for a prolonged strike, since the United Steelworkers Local 748-L rejected its last offer two weeks ago. 


Omnova officials began interviewing potential workers at the Wingate Inn on Wednesday. The company plans to hire 70 to 80 local temporary workers to replace out-of-town workers bused in as part of the company''s strike contingency plan. 


"The strike has been going on now for nearly three months, and we needed to evaluate our options going forward," explained Sandi Noah, communications director for Omnova. "That is one reason we are making the move to local temporary replacements. We need to be prepared for any eventuality, including a prolonged strike by the Union." 


Local workers aren''t discouraged by the company''s plans to hire local workers. They still hope to return to work under their previous contract. 


"Anytime you''re on strike, both parties are suffering somewhat," said Jay Lawrence, president of the local union, noting the company likely has lost customers since the strike began, May 21. Temporary workers, he said, can''t produce the same quality product as longtime employees. 


"They''re not experienced workers," Lawrence said of the temporary employees. "Those machines are very technical. It takes a high level of skill to produce a quality product." 


The Columbus plant is Omnova''s primary plant for commercial wall coverings. Functional coated fabrics, a durable plastic upholstery, also are produced at the plant, for the marine and transportation industry. 


Keeping the plant open and continuing to serve customers is "the best we can do for the Columbus plant right now," Noah said, noting, "in making this transition, we can bring jobs back into the Columbus area and get the stability that a local workforce can provide." 


While the union continues to hold out for a revised contract, Noah maintains Omnova remains "committed to the bargaining process" in hopes of "a competitive contract agreement that will allow our Union employees to return to work." 


The union declined to vote on the revised final offer, presented July 29 at the Holiday Inn, and is willing to stay on the picket line. 


"Basically, the company''s still wanting all the radical changes they wanted to begin with," Lawrence said. He believes the company was more interested in "feeling out" the potential duration of the strike than negotiating. 


The company plans to hire local workers and begin training within the week. 


"We have had a number of people in the area indicate an interest since the strike began," Noah said. 


Those interested in a temporary job in maintenance or production at Omnova should e-mail inquiries to [email protected] 


"They should not go to the plant or any other local site," Noah added. "We will screen all e-mails and contact applicants we are interested in interviewing." 


A revised offer is still on the table for union workers. Neither entities would divulge the details of the old contract nor the final offer, but workers cited seniority rights and shift rights as their primary concerns.