Harley-Davidson has signed a new contract with employees at its Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk manufacturing facilities.

The unionized employees at the Wisconsin plants had seen their original contract about to run out on April 1, but both sides had agreed to an emergency two-week extension. There was some minor protesting as the contract ran out, but the new deal seems to have been signed without too much difficulty.

Under the terms of the new contract, workers will get a 14 per cent pay raise over the next five years, along with a signing bonus. Health care benefits remain the same, and existing workers see improvements to their pension plan, as well as a new incentive to retire early. Presumably, these benefits do not extend to new hires.

Harley-Davidson now says the average wage for a regular full-time employee based in the Milwaukee area will be more than $33 an hour; workers based in Tomahawk will average $25 an hour, says the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The wage increases and improvement to benefits are no doubt welcome, but Harley-Davidson also made another announcement that will likely provide some peace of mind to its workers. Along with the concessions made to its unionized workers (represented by United Steelworkers Local 2-209 and USW Local 460), Harley-Davidson also announced a big chunk of money to be earmarked for plant improvements. Harley-Davidson is spending $65 million to improve the Menomonee Falls factory, and investing $10 million into the Tomahawk plant.

Given the recent concerns MoCo employees have voiced over overseas production, the large-scale investment into its Wisconsin factories should be seen as a welcome sign of employment stability.

Will those factory improvements be aimed at updating production lines to build new electric bikes, along with streetfighters and adventure bikes? It will be most interesting to watch, and see …

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