USW workers are contesting claims by Allegheny Technologies that the mills are currently “meeting and in many cases exceeding output, quality, and safety expectations” during the lockout of regular union employees.
“ATI is trying to paint a rosy picture,” said USW Vice President Tom Conway, “but all indications suggest a company that is limping along without its skilled work force. The earnings report is again bleak, and reports from the picket line suggest that the ‘expectations’ the facilities are meeting must have been low for the company to be exceeding them. If the company wants to again return to profitability, it must abandon this ill-advised lockout, so its dedicated workers can return to their jobs and provide the needed expertise.”
USW picketers report shipments from the mill are well below normal levels and suggest orders are being filled with inventory stockpiled before the lockout. Picketers claim safety issues have occurred at the plants, reporting “ambulances have been sighted numerous times at the locked out facilities.”
Healthcare has been the sticking point in negotiations between steel producers and the USW. During its earnings conference call, ATI CEO Richard Harshman said ATI spends 40 percent more on healthcare than other national companies, and 20 percent more than spent at union-represented companies. The company proposes that workers begin paying a pre-tax monthly premium of $125 for health coverage that would increase to $215 per month in the fourth year of the agreement.
“The USW understands that the market is challenging,” wrote the USW in its membership update. “The union put forward proposals that would save ATI significant sums over the term of the contract and offered to stay on the job while negotiations continued. Instead of continuing to negotiate, ATI’s management team has consistently rebuffed the offer.”
Harshman said, “We believe that these are some of the best jobs in the country from manufacturing positions and will remain so with the proposed contract changes; safe, well paying, with benefits including competitive healthcare plans and retirement savings plans.”
“We remain committed to reaching a fair and more competitive labor agreement with the USW,” said Harshman. “Our goal is to have the cost structure and enhanced product mix that enables ATI Flat Rolled Products to be a profitable and more competitive business.”
ATI posted a $145 million loss for third quarter citing weakened demand from the oil and gas, construction, and mining industries.
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