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Oshkosh Corp., labor union reach tentative deal

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Military-vehicle maker Oshkosh Corp. and its union leaders reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract, one that removes a provision about temporary workers that prompted union members to reject the previous two versions, a union leader said Friday.

The more than 3,000 members of United Auto Workers Local 578 will vote on the five-year contract Saturday morning.

Union members had rejected the previous two contracts, in part because of objection over contract language that would have let the company begin hiring temporary workers. That language has now been removed completely, union President Nick Nitschke told The Associated Press.

“That’s a big thing for the membership. It’s huge,” Nitschke said. “I think this will turn a lot of ‘no’ votes into ‘yes’ votes.”

John Daggett, a spokesman for the company, confirmed that a tentative deal had been reached but declined to comment on its content until the union had presented it to its members.

“We’re optimistic. We look forward to a favorable outcome (Saturday),” Daggett said.

The initial deal was voted down on Sept. 30, the day the previous five-year contract expired. That deal offered an 8 percent raise over five years, plus a $2,000 bonus, in exchange for increases to health-insurance premiums and permission to hire temporary workers beginning in 2013 as long as they joined the union and no union members were laid off or on recall at the time.

More than 85 percent of members voted down that contract.

The company and union returned to the bargaining table and hammered out a second agreement, one that resolved a number of smaller issues but retained a provision for hiring temporary workers. The deal would have given the union a little more say in how and when supplemental employees were hired.

The balloting on Oct. 8 was closer, but nearly two-thirds of members still voted it down.

Now, with the provision removed altogether, Nitschke said he’s hopeful that members will be satisfied with the deal.

“It’s up to the membership. They’re the ones with the right to vote. They’ll tell the committee if this is what they want,” he said. “I guess we’ll see.”

Shares of Oshkosh rose 87 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $19.11 in afternoon trading Thursday. Shares have traded in a 52-week range of $14.07 to $40.11.

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Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde@ap.org.

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