By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Employees of a civilian subcontractor at Vance Air Force Base did not have a sweet Valentine’s Day Thursday, at least as far as their paychecks were concerned.
Project Resources Inc./Del-Jen Inc. employees saw their wages cut after a change was made in their health insurance on Jan. 1. They were hopeful the situation would be resolved by their next payday, which came Thursday, but that was not the case.
Employees who spoke under the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal by the company, told of growing frustration with the firm, which they say has not been communicating with its workers.
“Our own company isn’t willing to even help us or even talk to us,” said one woman. “It is really bad.”
“Our director hasn’t made a comment to us,” said another worker. “He hasn’t sent out an email or anything.”
“We are getting no answers from our company,” said another female employee. “They haven’t said anything. We were told they were going to have a meeting this week and our checks might be corrected this week, but nothing happened.”
Last June, a new three-year collective bargaining agreement was approved by members of the union representing most contract employees at Vance, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 898. Under the new CBA, each company covered by the contract — CSC Applied Technologies, DenMar Services, M1 Support Services and PRI/DJI — has the same health, dental and vision insurance, provided by IMA Benefit Trust. Previously, each company’s employees were insured by a different carrier. The employees’ health insurance was previously a pre-tax benefit, but now workers are being taxed on their health insurance, at least by PRI/DJI. The rest of the companies involved apparently handled the switch with little or no problems.
But the paychecks PRI/DJI employees received Thursday still were incorrect, they said. One woman said she received a paycheck for zero dollars the last time, and for $549 this time. That still is below the more than $800 she normally is paid every two weeks.
“I didn’t pay my mortgage last month,” she said. “I can’t make my car payment this month because I have to pay my mortgage. It is crazy. If we are lucky it might be fixed by March 1, but I shouldn’t have to be lucky to get paid what I am owed.”
Phone calls to Tim Kirk, a spokesman for PRI/DJI based at the company’s headquarters in Clarksville, Tenn., and Tony Bennett, president and directing business representative for IAMAW District Lodge 171, of which Local Lodge 898 is a part, were not returned.
“The girl across from me cried,” said another female employee when workers learned the pay issue had not been corrected. “She said she didn’t know how she was going to make her house payments. They keep messing with everybody. It would be nice if we had a company that just cared a little bit about our employees.”
Another woman who has worked for PRI/DJI for more than a dozen years said her check, normally $1,970, was $379 instead.
“I can’t live on $379 for the next two weeks,” she said. “I have utility bills due, and food to buy.”
She said she is raising three grandchildren by herself and has chronic health conditions that prevent her from finding another job.
The workers said employees with CSC and other base contractors have donated money to help PRI/DJI employees pay bills and buy gas. The union, as well as local food banks like Loaves and Fishes and North Garland Church of Christ, have offered food to help them through this financial crisis.
“The union is really helping,” said one worker, “they are working on it, but they can only make them (PRI/DJI) go so fast. They are over a barrel, too. The company can drag its feet as long as they want.”
Morale among PRI/DJI’s employees, they say, is not good, but they continue to go to work each day.
“It isn’t for that company that we go to work,” said one employee. “We go to work for the Air Force. The Air Force is trying to train pilots and we are supporting the mission. We don’t want that to get off-track.”
“We come to work every day to support the young men in the Air Force that come here to train and will be supporting all of us, even if we are not getting a fair paycheck from the company,” said another worker.