Workers OK pay cuts to save jobs

Workers for two financially troubled companies have agreed to accepot, at least temporarily, substantial cuts in wages and benefits to keep plants open and workers in jobs.

These and a few other similar instances do not, however, represent a strong labor trend. Major unions and their members remain firmly committed against "give backs" of gains won in hard bargaining.

According to announcements over the past week:

* The United Rubber Workers, representing 6,000 Uniroyal Inc. employees, agreed to a 12.9 percent pay reduction in 1980 and a further 6.5 percent cut in 1981 to save the company an estimated $27 million a year as part of a $50 million cost-reduction program instituted by Uniroyal to kep plants open.

* Employees of Dayton Press Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, voted to accept a temporary 10 percent wage reduction (up to $1.25 an hour for a $12.50 employee) plus additional cuts in benefits while negotiations are under way for 2,500 employees to buy the printer for $135 million. The wage and benefits cuts will save $15 million a year.

Earlier, the Chrysler Corporation asked for and won concessions from the United Auto Workers, and other companies have succeeded more quietly in getting similar cost- cutting agreements from unions.

But, basically, organized labor's policy is that wages and benefits can go up -- but not down. The principle is that what you get, you keep. This way a key issue in the recent public employee strike threat in New York City, and it is a frequent strike issue elsewhere.

Despite today's high unemployment and worries about jobs, bargaining settlements are running even higher than last year.

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