A three-week lockout is expected to end Monday at PEMCO in Niagara Falls, but the recently unionized company still faces wide divisions between labor and management.
The company, maker of fused silica used in industrial processes, was organized by the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union Local 8215 in June.
Most of the 16 production workers have been locked out since presenting the company with a list of health and safety grievances on Aug. 7, according to steward Earl Golden.
The plant has broken floors, unsafe levels of glass dust and other hazards, he said.
But company president Abdul S. Labi said the union's real goal was the reinstatement of an employee who was fired for cause in July.
"They threw in health and safety (complaints) to engender public sympathy," he said. Workers originally walked out at noon Aug. 7, then were locked out when they tried to return for work the following Monday, he said.
Although their differences remain, the company and union agreed Thursday to address them in negotiations and return to work. The next talks toward a labor contract are scheduled Sept. 3.
The union has filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board regarding the lockout and the dismissal of union supporters, Golden said.
Workers received no income during the lockout because the company contested unemployment claims, he said.
Workers earn between $7 and $9 an hour operating furnaces and milling machines and bagging fused silica, a flour-like powder, he said.
The product is used in semiconductors, heat-resistant crucibles and for industrial processes.