Local steel contract talks struggle as weekend deadline nears
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com August 30, 2012 6:48PM
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:51PM
Steelworkers are locked in contract negotiations with U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal — with their pacts set to expire as Saturday becomes Sunday morning — but so far the contract talks are going in opposite directions.
The latest updates from the United Steelworkers bargaining team said they are making progress on U.S. Steel negotiations, but the parties are far apart in their talks with ArcelorMittal. With the deadline fast approaching, there are several options, including voting to strike or extending the current contract to keep negotiating. Workers at both companies, for now, have been instructed to plan to go to work as scheduled.
Talks on both contracts started in June in Pittsburgh. The U.S. Steel contract covers 12 plants — including Gary Works — with more than 12,000 employees, while the ArcelorMittal agreement cover 12 U.S. facilities — including Indiana Harbor, Indiana Harbor Long Carbon and Burns Harbor — with 12,554 employees.
The main sticking point in the U.S. Steel negotiations is related to rising health care costs, particularly for retirees.
The USW’s U.S. Steel update said, “We are still making progress on crucial issues and we are hopeful that the parties can reach an agreement by that time. As we near the expiration of our contract, we remain committed to working with the company to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides — one that allows the company to remain competitive while ensuring good jobs and good benefits now and into the future.”
U.S. Steel representatives have declined comment on negotiations.
The frustration with ArcelorMittal was on display Monday afternoon when more than 1,000 employees and retirees demonstrated for a fair contract Monday afternoon at the Indiana Harbor main office.
The USW’s latest update was titled “The Staredown Continues,” and it detailed frustration with the process.
“We again made a comprehensive proposal designed to reach a fair and equitable contract, with movement on our part toward responsible compromise,” the update said. “Unfortunately, the company has maintained its insistence on the kind of concessions that we have been reporting to you, including two-tier wages and benefits, attacks on our contractual rights, and cutting back our health care.”
ArcelorMittal representatives said they are hopeful of a deal, but they have started “taking asset preservation steps at its facilities should a work stoppage occur.”