The program will provide employees with a clear career path while allowing for skills flexibility as needed by paying workers based on their skill and experience level, regardless of current task. Each employee will be tested in skill proficiency to determine his or her compensation level.
“This contract is a modern agreement that provides significant opportunities for employees to enhance their skills, improve the value of their labor and gain increased compensation based on career advancement,” said Bill Breihan, United Steelworkers sub-district director. “It well positions the company to meet customer demand in an ever-changing marketplace.”
The company, a Waukesha metal-casting foundry focused on sophisticated alloys, already has apprenticeship programs for maintenance mechanics and pattern makers, so those employees are not a part of the new program.
“The idea is not for people to move around between different departments, but to hire in one department and stay in that department for several years,” said CEO Ken Kurek. “(Then) they make the top pay level, even if they’re doing one of the basic jobs.”
Pay for Skill is a win-win for the union and the company, he said.
“They saw it as an opportunity for the union employees to make some more money, especially when they learn some more skills, and we saw it as an opportunity to have a more flexible workforce,” Kurek said.
Kurek hopes the program can both retain in-demand skilled workers and attract new talent as his aging employee base retires. Waukesha Foundry has tried to keep its pay competitive with industry standards, including Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
“We expect that our Pay For Skill program will further increase our on-time delivery performance to customers and shorten lead times,” he said.
Waukesha Foundry has 150 employees and has hired 25 people in the last year. Kurek estimates 100 new employees will be hired in the next few years to replace retiring workers and meet increasing demand.