A threatened strike at NLMK Pennsylvania became reality on Saturday when United Steelworkers at the company’s Farrell, Pa., plant walked off the job over what they claim are unfair labor practices. Local 1016-3 gave NLMK management a 48-hour strike notice on Friday, Aug. 20.
Months of labor negotiations between management and the union deteriorated over a proposed healthcare plan that the USW says it does not want or trust and has rejected in the past.
The USW has filed unfair labor practice charges against NLMK with Region 6 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) based on what it perceives to be the “company’s failure to provide information necessary to bargain on an informed basis, management’s refusal to process grievances and for unilaterally changing benefits to exclude the family of a deceased employee, effective immediately upon their death.”
“We’ve stood together to survive during hard times in the past and know that we can accomplish great things through solidarity and collective action,” said USW District 10 Director Robert “Bobby Mac” McAuliffe. “NLMK needs stop breaking the law and negotiate in good faith with workers for a fair contract.”
A statement by the company disputes the claims made by the USW:
“It is very unfortunate that the union has adopted the position that it is conveying to the public in order to garner sympathy and community support. Even during a global pandemic and a depressed steel market NLMK USA has made significant offers to its union employees, which would have resulted in an average increase to the employees’ compensation and benefit package amounting to nearly $27,000.00 over the proposed four-year contract.
“The union cites a change in the healthcare plan as one of the reasons justifying its decision to walk off the job. NLMK takes pride in always offering outstanding benefits to our union employees. Our latest offer actually improves the employees’ healthcare benefits that are currently in place. Contrary to the union’s position, NLMK has not broken the law nor failed to abide with its contractual obligations. In fact, since April, NLMK has agreed to continue to operate under the provisions of the expired contract while making no changes to the employees’ working conditions, wages or overall benefits. NLMK has also provided to the union all of the necessary information the union has requested in order for it to continue bargaining. Moreover, NLMK has not made any changes to the contractual obligations pertaining to the healthcare benefits for the families of deceased employees. NLMK has actually offered extended healthcare coverage benefits to the families of deceased employees without having any contractual obligation to do so. Additionally, it is unfortunate that the union is only raising this issue of extended healthcare coverage to the families of deceased employees now for the first time as a justification for supporting its decision to walk away from the bargaining table and engage in a work stoppage. The truth is that healthcare coverage has not changed and this latest accusation is nothing more than a tactic used by the union to try to shed a negative light on NLMK by creating an issue where none exists.
“Nevertheless, it appears that the USW is determined to strike regardless of the significant contractual provisions that NLMK has offered throughout the negotiating process. NLMK remains willing to continue to negotiate with the union in good faith in order to reach a mutually beneficial collective bargaining agreement that will provide its union employees with outstanding wages and benefits into the future.”
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