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Eramet union makes counteroffer

By Justin McIntosh, jmcintosh@mariettatimes.com

About the company

For more than 50 years, Eramet’s local plant has produced manganese and other special metal products used by the steel, aluminum, superalloys and specialty steel industries.



On the Net

www.erametmarietta.com.

A counteroffer to end the more than 136-day labor dispute was presented by union leaders to Eramet officials Tuesday.

The proposal by United Steelworkers Local 00639 came in a federally mediated meeting at the Lafayette Hotel. It is in response to the company’s proposal that was rejected by steelworkers on Dec. 6.

Ethan Frank-Collins, Eramet human resources manager, declined to discuss specifics of the proposal.

“We’re carefully considering the offer and preparing our response,” Frank-Collins said. “We don’t have another meeting scheduled at this point, but we hope to contact the union before the end of this week to discuss plans for our next meeting date.”

Denny Longwell, staff representative of the District 1 United Steelworkers Union, also declined to discuss specifics of the counteroffer, but said pension plans continue to be a part of the sticking points for union members.

“I think it's always good when the parties agree to meet,” Longwell said. “We said to the company a week ago and we said to them again today ‘we're willing and desire to meet as often as possible to get this thing resolved.’”

The meeting was attended by Longwell, six local union representatives, the federal mediator and two Eramet officials, Longwell said.

About 290 steelworkers have been off the job since late August 2006 when they rejected a proposed labor contract from the Ohio 7 plant. Approximately 25 have retired since the start of the labor dispute.

Eramet has been using its 115 salaried employees and about 30 temporary workers to meet the demands of its customers with the possibility of hiring additional temporary workers.

In the proposal rejected in August, union officials said, Eramet aimed to freeze workers’ pension plans, cap insurance for retired workers and to raise current employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses by as much as 85 percent.

The workers contend the proposed changes to medical costs will consume nearly all of retirees’ monthly pensions. About a quarter of the union force is within a few years of retirement, while the average age of the union workforce at Eramet is 50.

In addition to frozen pensions, the proposed contracts would have 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.

The contract rejected in December offered a 51/2 percent match for its 401 (k) plan, and modified caps for retiree medical costs.

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 its proposal, the company proposed a pay increase of $1.71 per hour over the next three years.

Eramet has called the dispute a labor strike, while the union has called it a lockout by the company. A court has ruled the dispute a lockout, helping to clear the way for the workers to collect unemployment benefits.

For more than 50 years, Eramet’s local plant has produced manganese and other special metal products used by the steel, aluminum, superalloys and specialty steel industries. Eramet Marietta is one of the largest producers of these products in the world, according to the company.

 

 

 

 






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