South Slope Communications in North Liberty has locked out 55 employees after their union contract with the cooperative expired at midnight Thursday.
South Slope CEO Justyn Miller said the union chose to let the contract expire.
"We are disappointed that the union chose not to vote on our proposed offer, which unfortunately led to a lockout," Miller said. "South Slope did not receive any further request for bargaining meetings to occur prior to expiration. We are waiting to receive an answer from the union on the outcome of the vote and end the lockout."
Miller explained why the cooperative locked out employees on Friday.
“When a few people showed up today, we asked if they had voted one way or the other on the contract offer. “When they said ‘no,’ we told them that we have no contract work today,” Miller said.
“Without a contract, there is nothing in place.”
The lockout affects workers in the cooperative's outside plant, clerical and IT departments. Miller said management continues to operate all essential functions and the lockout has not interrupted installation orders.
On Friday, the Communications Workers of America said its bargaining team is unanimously recommending rejection of the cooperative's last, best and final offer when union members vote on Sunday. The offer reportedly includes a proposed 30 percent reduction in pay from existing wages for new hires or existing workers who transfer into new titles.
The CWA bargaining committee said it is concerned the two-tier pay structure will negatively affect employee morale and the ability to attract and retain qualified employees.
The Communications Workers of America contends South Slope refused to continue bargaining or extend the contract to accommodate the ratification vote.
"South Slope workers previously authorized a strike, however, they also notified the company they were willing to extend contract or work without a contract until a legal vote could be held," the union said in a statement.South Slope Communications, which provides telephone, Internet and cable television, serves Amana, Ely, Fairfax, Newhall, North Liberty, Norway, Oxford, Solon, Shueyville, Tiffin, Watkins, Walford, west and south Cedar Rapids, and parts of Coralville.