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Workers at Habasit Globe Inc. in Buffalo approved a five-year contract, their first since Habasit International of Switzerland acquired the manufacturer of conveyor belts in 1997.

The contract provides raises of 2 percent each year for the company's 100 union workers. It also pays a $200 bonus each year.

"I think it's in line with what we had to do to have a motivated work force," said company president Harry M. Cardillo.

Formerly called Globe International, Habasit makes light conveyor belts used in supermarket checkouts and airport security scanners. It has 175 employees, most based at its factory on Seneca Street and a fabricating plant in Cheektowaga.

The pact with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) Local 1067T replaces a three-year contract that expires today.

The company sought the longer term to improve planning and to cut the costs of periodic contract negotiations, Cardillo said.

The contract, with a 10 percent raise over the life of the agreement, improves on the previous agreement, said Ronald Polak, business agent for UNITE. The old contract raised wages 6.25 percent over its term.

Workers improved the contract by a 3-1 ratio, Polak said. The average employee earns about $11.50 per hour.

Habasit, a privately held Swiss company, has invested about $5 million into the Globe operations since acquiring the Buffalo company for an undisclosed sum in January 1997.

"It's good to see quite a bit of money coming in," Polak said.

In addition to providing a longer term, the pact cuts restrictive job classifications, Cardillo said. The agreement will help the company compete with another Habasit-owned conveyor belt maker in Atlanta.

"I think the contract we got is fair on both sides, and will help keep these employees here," Cardillo said.

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