The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 35.0°F | Fair

Necco, Striking Workers Reach Compromise

By Lauren E. LeBon

STAFF REPORTER

The New England Confectionary Co. reached a compromise with its union workers last month, after Necco employees staged a 29-day strike over job security and healthcare complaints.

The strike ended as Necco prepares for the transition from its factory at 254 Massachusetts Ave. to a larger facility in Revere, Mass. next spring. Necco’s 74-year-old building has been leased by Novartis, Switzerland’s largest company and one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, to form the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research.

Strike ends, but worries persist

A month after starting their strike, union workers reached a settlement with Necco representatives on Sept. 13, said John Demers, Necco’s director of human resources.

Striking worker Kevin Brennan said that Necco employees had been concerned about rising healthcare costs and with their job security after Necco’s move to Revere.

Medical insurance for Necco employees has become “sky-high,” hitting $62 a week per family, said union representative Paul Salemme.

Brennan said that in the end, the workers resolved job security issues, compromised on the medical plan, and received a new dental plan.

All employees have been invited to join Necco in its move to Revere, Demers said.

“There will be no negative impact,” he said. “Everyone should be ready, willing, and able to go to the new facility.”

Salemme said that despite Necco’s promises about workers’ job security, one third of Necco’s 24 factory workers were laid off the day the strike ended.

Though worries still exist, Salemme said there will be no more striking. Necco and its workers have reached a four-year agreement, he said.

Necco to leave after 74 years

Early next year, Necco will begin to relocate its facilities in Cambridge to a 816,000-square-foot warehouse in Revere, Mass.

“It will give us room to grow and also give us space for offices, factories, and warehousing,” said Necco press representative Lori Zimbalatti.

Necco hopes to consolidate its production, which is located in the building on Massachusetts Ave., and its offices and warehousing, which are located in Lechmere Square, also in Cambridge. The lease on Necco’s Lechmere space will expire in June 2003, and the Massachusetts Ave. building could not accommodate all of the departments, Zimbalatti said. Necco has been looking for new sites for three years, and considered relocation to Everett, Braintree, and Suffolk Downs, she said.

“We’re sorry to be leaving, but this was a space issue,” Zimbalatti said. “We need to grow and expand.”

Necco building leased by Novartis

Meanwhile, the old Necco building has been leased to Novartis for 45 years, along with the new Building 100 in MIT’s Technology Square, to form the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research.

Cambridge was chosen to take advantage of the “one of the world's most impressive pools of scientific talent and academic institutions,” Novartis said in a press release.

Novartis will invest $760 million to renovate the buildings, which will include 764,000 square feet of laboratory space. Initially, the new facility will offer 400 new positions, and it will eventually employ 900 scientists. The head of the institute will be Mark Fishman MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of cardiovascular research at Massachusetts General Hospital. Research at the new facility will focus on diabetes and cardiovascular and infectious diseases.