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Locked out Eramet workers say their resolve remains strong

By Brad Bauer, bbauer@mariettatimes.com

BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times

Locked out of work for nearly four months, Eramet Marietta worker Ed Scott, 51, left, stands outside the Ohio 7 plant on Christmas Eve with several co-workers.

Huddled around a makeshift wood-burning stove and listening to holiday tunes on an old radio on Sunday, union members at Eramet Marietta plan to do the same today and Tuesday.

“We’re as strong as ever and being out here in the cold and during the holidays shows our unity,” said Ed Scott, 51, of Parkersburg, one of about 300 union workers considered locked out of the Ohio 7 facility for the past four months.

In August, workers voted down a new contract that would have frozen pension plans and modified medical benefits. Union members offered to continue working under their old contract, but Eramet officials refused and little progress has been made to resolve the issue.

Just a few weeks ago, workers voted down a second contract offer from the specialty alloy maker. No new talks are scheduled.

“We’re just trying to keep what we’ve got, not really get anything more,” Scott said.

The average age of the union workforce at Eramet is 50. About a quarter of the workers are within a few years of retirement, which helps explain why proposed changes in pension plans and retiree medical costs led to picket lines forming.

Paul Bibbee, 59, of Fleming, was camped outside the plant on Sunday. The 35-year employee said he planned to be back today. He said his wife was a little disappointed by his decision to be away from home for part of Christmas.

“This is important. And there are some guys with young families who need to be home,” Bibbee said.

The union workers have had people outside the company’s gates every hour since the start of the lockout.

“If one good thing has come of this, it’s that I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people,” Scott said. “I didn’t know half of the guys in this plant. I may have known them by face, but being out here has helped us get to know each other and to really bring us together.”

In addition to frozen pensions, the proposed contracts left employees the option of enrolling in a modified benefit plan of $30 a month for each year of service (plus what the worker 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.

Eramet officials say the concessions in medical costs and retirement are necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the plant. The specialty metal plant has operated for more than 50 years in Marietta under different ownership.

The average Eramet union worker earns $19.53 per hour. As part of the new contract, the company proposed a pay increase of $1.71 per hour over the next three years.

 

 

 

 




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