Steelworker strike talk intensifies as contract negotiations continue

  • Friday, August 31, 2012

Leaders of the United Steelworkers said Wednesday nothing has taken place in the past 24 hours that would indicate  a contract agreement is being reached with ArcelorMittal officials.
The contract for the company’s 14,000 workers expires this weekend and, according to the newsletter issued today, talks are nearly at a stalemate.
“ArcelorMittal continues to signal that it wants a confrontation,” union leaders say. “We have a comprehensive proposal on the table. One that allows for efficient and productive operations in our plants while protecting our hard-won rights on the job. [It also] maintains the decent standard of living we believe steelworkers have a right to expect.”
The newsletter says the company “continues to demand a laundry list of concessions and contract changes.”
Union leaders say the current contract runs through Saturday, so if there is a strike or lockout it could begin at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

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If workers at ArcelorMittal Georgetown, and the company’s other plants across the United States are working Sunday, they will most likely be doing so without a contract.
And that most likely will not happen, leaders with the United Steelworkers say.
The current work agreement expires at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
In an update Tuesday to the 14,000 ArcelorMittal workers nationwide, USW officials — who have been in contract negotiations since early July, say the latest proposal submitted by company leaders is “incomplete, inconsistent, and very dangerous.”
They say the proposal “is a step backwards.”
According to the briefing, the company has “ignored” input on issues that affect the long-term viability and sustainability of the plants.
Workers are asking the company to invest more in the facilities, wages, retirement, seniority and other rights on the job.
“They continue to insist on establishing a two-tier structure in our plants — with new hires receiving lower wages (in some cases permanently and in other cases for as long as six years) and no pension benefits. History has shown that two-tier systems create resentment, conflict, and disunity — disrupting the teamwork and harmony that we all know is essential to a productive and profitable operation,” USW leaders wrote. “This is bad for the company and worse for us, yet management continues to propose it.”
The Georgetown Times has tried to get comment from ArcelorMittal but our messages were not answered.
According to Steel Business Briefing, ArcelorMittal is considering making new investments in Latin America.
That, according to the publication, is what Sachim Shivaram, head of strategy and marketing from the steelmaker’s Long Carbon Americas unit, said Monday.
He said the region’s role in ArcelorMittal’s quest for self-sufficiency is critical. “At this point, Brazil’s strength is key to us, and we have already been improving investments, such as the Serra Azul mining company in Belo Horizonte,” Shivaram is quoted as saying.

Strike looms

When asked if workers will strike this Saturday if a new contract is not in place, USW spokesman Tony Montana said “nothing is off the table.”
This week, the USW has been sending out briefings to workers explaining what will happen if there is a strike or lockout.
“If we are on strike, everyone will know it,” Montana said.
In the event of a strike, the Steelworkers International Strike and Defense Fund provides money to help union members while they are not working.
“The Fund pays to your local union $200 per week per member, beginning with the fourth week of a strike or lockout,” union leaders say, adding the money is distributed based on individual need.

By Scott Harper

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