Chesterton Tribune



ArcelorMittal walks away from table; USW and USS still talking

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The United Steelworkers (USW) issued the following statement on Saturday, after ArcelorMittal’s contract negotiators walked away from the table over the weekend.

“(O)ur committee delivered a comprehensive proposal to ArcelorMittal management that would meet the needs of active and retired Steelworkers while maintaining benefits and saving the company millions in expenses and liabilities.

“The company’s response was not what we hoped. Instead of staying and engaging in good-faith negotiations, management has walked away from the table. We are disappointed but not surprised, since management has drawn out the process every step of the way.

“ArcelorMittal continues to demand major economic and non-economic concessions on many issues, such as vacation pay, incentive pay, sickness and accident benefits, and transfer rights. The company refuses to consider any healthcare proposal that does not include monthly premium contributions for active employees and significant increases in the amount retirees already pay for their benefits while shifting everyone into plans with considerably less coverage and much higher deductibles.

“We have been flexible and creative in addressing many of the concerns raised by management and in our commitment to working with the company to make our facilities safer and more productive.

“Our union is at the forefront of the fight to stop unfair trade, and it seems management has forgotten that without our hard work and dedication, none of these facilities would have survived the industry crisis from 1998-2002, when 50 steel companies went bankrupt--including almost all of our previous employers.

“Our committee is returning to our plants and will be providing important information and updates to the membership in the coming days. Please remember to stay focused on working safely and watching out for the safety of your coworkers.

“Our strength comes from your continued support and solidarity, and we are confident that together we will achieve a fair contract.”

USW on U.S. Steel

Meanwhile, in a communique released late on Thursday, the USW cited “progress” made with U.S. Steel “on significant issues” but announced at the same time that “the company continues to insist on a number of unrealistic and unacceptable demands for concessions.”

The USW then provided a synopsis of the issues on which daylight remains between the union and the company:

* Active healthcare: The company’s proposal would add deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket costs up to nearly $3,300 per year for family coverage by 2018. If more than one family member experiences a serious health problem, a family’s premiums and out-of-pocket could hit $6,300 per year. “These costs would be even higher for out-of-network services,” the union said.

* Two-tier plan: Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2016, would be excluded from the current healthcare plan and “shoved into a high-deductible health plan,” similar to the one covering non-represented employees. That plan would have slightly lower monthly premiums but also expose employees to large out-of-pocket. “The proposal is designed to create a two-tier compensation scheme that will make it harder to bargain benefits, create resentment, and undermine solidarity,” the union said. “Since these employees haven’t even begun work, there are no labor cost savings--but the seeds of division are sown.”

* Retiree healthcare: The company is no longer proposing to eliminate the current plan for Medicare-eligible retirees and surviving spouses. “However, U.S. Steel continues to propose higher premiums and drug copays for Medicare-eligible retirees and surviving spouses and substantial cost-shifting for non-Medicare-eligible retirees,” the union said.

* Health security for all: “Health care is an important issue,” the union said. “We work hard. Work in a steel mill is difficult and often dangerous. It takes its toll. We deserve quality healthcare for ourselves and our families. Our wages shouldn’t be eaten up by premiums and we shouldn’t have to face ruin due to an unexpected hospital admission.”

* Health and safety: “U.S. Steel continues to insist upon having their own input on the direction of our union safety representatives,” the union said.

* Contracting out: “U.S. Steel wants the right to contract out day-to-day maintenance with no notification,” the union said. “We remain determined not to open the door to more contractors.”

* Profit-sharing: “U.S. Steel has proposed changes to the profit-sharing plan which would reduce the frequency of the payments from quarterly to annually,” the union said.

* S&A benefits: “The company proposes to deny Sickness & Accident benefits to employees with less than three years of service,” the union said. “Currently, employees are eligible for S&A coverage 60 days after their date of hire.”

The USW ended the communique by urging members to remain solid. “Solidarity--it is more than just a word or a song that we sing,” the union said. “It is what helped the generations of union members who came before us build the middle class. Now we need to strengthen our solidarity more than ever if we are going to achieve a fair contract and make sure our jobs can continue to support our families and communities. We will need every member in every USW local across the country to stand together.”


Posted 9/14/2015




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