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Eramet workers return

By Brad Bauer, bbauer@mariettatimes.com

Eramet Marietta employee Steve Tornes loads a tool truck Monday. Tornes and other employees returned to their jobs Monday after a 160-day labor dispute at the local specialty metal producer.

BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times

Eramet Marietta workers and company officials took the first steps Monday toward putting a bitter labor dispute behind them when about 240 employees returned to work after a five-month lockout.

Many employees described a “sour grapes” sentiment after inking a three-year contract with the specialty alloy producer on Friday that was short of their expectations.

“People were tired of being out of work and they felt like they needed to do something for their families and the community and they accepted the offer,” said Jim Deem, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-00639, and a 33-year Eramet employee.

In August, workers turned down the first of three contract offers from the company because it would have frozen pension plans and left employees the option of enrolling in a modified benefit plan of $30 per month for each year of service (plus what the worker had accumulated through the end of 2006), or the option of enrolling in a 401(k) plan with a dollar for dollar match, up to 5 percent.

The three-year contract ratified on Friday still freezes the pension plan, caps the cost of retiree health care insurance for the company, and increases deductibles and out of pocket medical expenses for both active members and retirees, according to Deem.

Steve Tornes, 48, of Marietta, has worked as a metal worker at Eramet the past 18 years. He said he wasn’t too happy with the latest contract, but he was glad to be back to work.

“This lockout or strike or whatever you want to call it has definitely worked on us,” Tornes said. “There are things I’m behind on and if it weren’t for unemployment I’d be even deeper in the hole.”

Tornes said he hopes time eases the bitter feelings many workers have of the company.

“In 2017 I’ll be eligible to retire and I hope I’m still here to be able to do that,” Tornes said. “I’m not sure what kind of retirement I’ll end up with. But this has been my life. This is how I’ve provided for my family.”

Eramet spokesman Ethan Frank-Collins said the concessions in the workers’ retirement and medical costs were necessary to help ensure the plant is still there in 10 or 20 years.

“Undoubtedly there is going to be a mix of emotions,” Frank-Collins said. “But a lot of the folks I’ve seen today are pleased to be back to work and in good spirits. For others, I hope over time their sentiment will improve.”

Workers returned at 8 a.m. Monday. The day started with a review of plant safety operations.

Eramet at a glance

Eramet Marietta, owned by a French-based firm, is the lone domestic source of ferromanganese, an alloy that improves steel. The French-owned company sells about 35,000 tons of the material a year and employs about 400 people.

The plant, along Ohio 7 between Marietta and Belpre, opened in 1951 as part of a huge Union Carbide complex that was divided and sold in the 1970s.

Eramet union workers earn an average of $19.53 per hour.





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