Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Steelworkers ratify 3 year contract with US Steel

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By KEVIN NEVERS

United Steelworkers members employed at U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) have voted by a better than two-to-one margin to ratify new three-year collective bargaining agreements.

The agreements cover the approximately 18,000 employees at the company’s domestic flat-rolled and iron-ore mining facilities and its tubular operations in Fairfield, Ala., Lorain, Ohio, and Lone Star, Texas.

Ratification comes five months to the day that the Steelworkers’ previous contracts, with both USS and ArcelorMittal, expired: Sept. 1, 2015. Members agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the old collective bargaining agreement until new contracts were negotiated.

Just before Christmas, following an often acrimonious autumn, the USW announced that a tentative successor pact had been concluded with USS, although the union still remains in negotiations with ArcelorMittal.

Both companies had sought--or continue to seek--major concessions from the Steelworkers, and ArcelorMittal has made no secret of its desire to cut healthcare and legacy costs in what it’s characterized as an increasingly harsh domestic steelmaking environment, buffeted not only by the plunge in oil prices but by record high imports of cheap foreign steel. Thousands of represented and non-represented workers in 2015 received WARN notifications of possible or impending layoffs or idlings, with USS permanently shuttering the coke batteries at Gary Works and Granite City, Ill., Works and the blast furnace at Fairfield, Ala., Works, as well as announcing a postponement of plans to build an electric arc furnace at Fairfield Works.

The USW, for its part, accused USS and ArcelorMittal of using temporary market conditions as an excuse for permanently turning back the clock on hard-won collective-bargaining gains..

Late on Monday, USW International Vice-president Tom Conway attributed the doing of the done deal to members’ unwavering unity. “I am extremely proud of the solidarity and commitment to fairness that the Steelworkers showed throughout this process,” Conway said. “These hard-working men and women were determined not to be made scapegoats for what is a global crisis.”

Both USW International President Leo Gerard and District 7 Director Mike Millsap struck a conciliatory note on Monday and emphasized a need for union and management to cooperate in the face of appalling market conditions.

“The past year has been a difficult one for the steel industry, for USW members, and for manufacturing towns all across this country,” Gerard said. “The key to weathering this crisis is not to attack each other, but to work together to find solutions to our common problems--namely, the severe imbalance and unfairness in our trade system. This must be our shared goal as we move forward.”

“We are proud of the productive relationship we’ve built with U.S. Steel,” Millsap said. “We hope to build on it as we move forward from what has been a very challenging year.”

USS President and CEO Mario Longhi was more terse. “We are pleased with the outcome of the ratification vote,” Longhi said. “We believe these three-year agreements are in the best interests of our company, our employees, and all of our stakeholders.

The USW broad-brushed the new contract in this way: “While the new agreement includes modest changes to active and retiree healthcare coverage, the union was able to fight off the company’s demands for significant premium contributions, as well as other large-scale out-of-pocket increases. The contract keeps wages at their current level but includes an increase in the USW’s profit-sharing percentage, which will allow workers to receive payments when the company bounces back from the current crisis. The agreement also resets supplemental unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.”

USS said this about it: “The agreements are retroactive to Sept. 1, contain no-strike provisions ,and expire on Sept. 1, 2018. The agreements provide for certain benefit adjustments for current and future employees and retirees as well as modifications to the profit sharing plan beginning in 2016. Financial impacts of the new agreements will be reflected beginning in the second quarter 2016 financial statements.”

 

Posted 2/2/2016

 
 
 
 

 

 

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