Steel Mills

No Progress in ArcelorMittal Negotiations Says USW

Written by Sandy Williams

Progress appears stalled at the bargaining table with neither ArcelorMittal nor the USW willing to make concessions. In Update 12 on Friday, the USW reported progress in the labor negotiations has been “slow.”

“Although the company says that it wants a new contract with our union, that desire has not been reflected in its proposals at the table,” the union said. “While we continue to meet, progress has been slow and ArcelorMittal persists in seeking major changes to our agreements that would reduce the security of our jobs, earnings, and benefits.”

Stumbling blocks to an agreement include proposals on wages and compensation, healthcare, and retiree protections.

ArcelorMittal management is proposing for three years with no wage increases, reduction or elimination of premium overtime pay and reduced vacation, sickness and accident benefits. The union called the proposals “meaningless in terms of reducing the real cost of making steel” and is countering with a three-year contract proposal with lump-sum payments and wage increases based on market hot band pricing.

Reduced healthcare coverage and out-of-pocket premiums for insurance is another point of contention.

“Our healthcare is part of our compensation and there is no need to reduce coverage or make monthly contributions because of a temporary downturn in the market,” responded the union. “We have proposed a single PIB that will reduce the administrative costs by millions of dollars per year, yet protect our benefits and not require contributions.”

On retiree benefits, the union has introduced their own proposal to reduce costs for the company while maintaining current benefits and contributions.

In an interview with WIN Radio, USW President Leo W. Gerard commented on the challenges facing the US steel industry but said the difficulties were “not brought on by our members making too much money or our members having too good of benefits” but by the “unbelievable amounts of cheating that’s going on in the global steel industry.”

“We’re prepared to bargain and to do it on a basis that if the company does well, we’ll get improvements,” said Gerard. “We’re not looking to change the world right now. But we’re also not gonna let them throw our retirees overboard or make health care costs unaffordable. We’re not gonna be rolled over. We‘re not gonna be walked on. We’re not gonna end up that our members can’t have a decent middle class standard of living. And we’re gonna stand and fight until we have a fair contract that our members will be proud to ratify.”

In keeping with normal protocol, ArcelorMittal and US Steel are not commenting on labor discussions.

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