The merger of GE Transportation, one of the original business units of the General Electric Co., and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. is complete as of Feb. 25.
The combined company, which has its headquarters in Pittsburgh and its global freight headquarters in Chicago, has 27,000 employees and does business in 50 countries.
As this is written, however, the company is also facing the threat of a strike at its Erie, Pa., plant, the largest of the former GE Transportation sites included in the complex merger deal that made GE Transportation a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wabtec Corp.
Locals 506 and 618 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America voted Feb. 23 to authorize a strike after bargaining with Wabtec since June 29. The two locals represent about 1,700 workers at the Erie plant.
Because no agreement was reached between the union and Wabtec before the merger, union members become Wabtec employees Feb. 25 under the terms of most recent company proposals.
Under the terms of that proposal, current employees will continue to be paid at the same rate. New employees and those called back to work would be paid at a lower rate. The company is also imposing numerous other changes, including mandatory overtime, and requiring workers to take vacation during mandatory shutdown periods.
“Wabtec will enter into a relationship with its largest workforce in Pennsylvania under unacceptable terms and conditions today, after Wabtec/GE negotiators walked away from a proposal from UE 506 leadership that would have allowed for continued production and cooperation,” the union said in a statement Feb. 25.
It’s not clear whether the UE will act on its strike authorization.
A posting on the union’s website said that the executive boards of both locals will meet Feb. 25 and provide further instructions throughout the course of the day.
For the moment, however, Wabtec CEO Raymond T. Betler was celebrating the merger.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring together nearly four centuries of collective experience to create a technologically advanced leader with a highly complementary set of capabilities to move and improve the world,” Betler said in a prepared statement.