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Eramet negotiations to resume

By Brad Bauer, bbauer@mariettatimes.com

Labor negotiations are expected to resume today between Eramet and nearly 300 union steelworkers who claim they have been locked out of the specialty alloy facility located just south of Marietta since Aug. 26.

A meeting scheduled for Monday was postponed because a federal mediator was unable to attend.

“I think both sides are ready and willing to talk, but we didn’t meet (on Monday) because of a scheduling conflict involving the mediator,” said Ethan Frank-Collins, human resources manager at Eramet.

Frank-Collins said the two sides remained “very far apart.” He said the plant is firm on its last contract offer, said to be its “last, best and final offer.”

The labor union voted down the contract which aimed to freeze pension plans and limit the amount the company would pay for retiree medical benefits.

“I know the company remains firm in its position,” Frank-Collins said. “Still, our sincere hope is to end our dispute and get our hourly work force back to work.”

Now in his fourth week on the picket line, Dencil Brown, 53, of Boaz, W.Va., said he is as confident as ever in his decision to help vote down the company’s contract offer.

“A lot of us came here right out of high school and gave them our good health and good years and for a long time they’ve been good to us,” Brown said. “Now they want to come and take that all away on the tail end of our careers. It’s not right.”

Brown has worked at the company for 31 years.

“Our morale is still good,” he said. “We’re in the right, here.”

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.

Nearly 300 union workers consider themselves locked out of the Ohio 7 plant, just south of Marietta, after the plant refused to let work continue under their previous contract.

In the meantime, Frank-Collins said about 30 temporary replacement workers and 115 salaried front office employees have taken over production duties at the alloy producer.

“We’re continuing to serve our customers and we’re doing quite well, but the sooner we can end this the better. An end to this is in everyone’s best interest,” Frank-Collins said.

The company’s offer calls for freezing pension plans, leaving employees the option of enrolling in a modified benefit plan of $30 per month for each year of service (plus what the worker has accumulated through the end of 2006), or workers can opt into a 401(k) plan with a dollar for dollar match, up to 5 percent.




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