Steel workers seek improved deal with ArcelorMittal

WEIRTON, W.Va. — Another round of negotiations are scheduled Thursday between the United Steelworkers Union and ArcelorMittal in connection with the company’s Weirton plant.

Union members are working under a contract extension, a deal which was negotiated more than three years ago. Since then, things have radically changed in the U.S. steel industry and now the union wants what they believe is their fair share.

“Literally we didn’t get a one cent increase over a three-year period,” said United Steelworkers Union Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis told MetroNews Tuesday. “Now that the industry has rebounded significantly, we deserve some fair compensation.”

But so far, Glyptis said negotiations have been going very slowly and the offers from the company to date can only be described as “concessionary” in nature. Glyptis said with the prices for steel products are at the highest they’ve been in almost two decades, the union isn’t willing to accept concessions, particularly when they don’t believe their own demands are unreasonable.

“It’s a very affordable contract,” said Glyptis. “The industry is doing very, very well and we have pricing at levels we haven’t seen in 15 or 20 years. It’s a bit of a surprise the company has taken the position they have.”

Union negotiators are seeking a base wage increase, at least holding the line on healthcare costs, and some slight improvements in retirement benefits. Glyptis would not get into specific details, but said in general those are the demands the union seeks. He added the company’s offer for a wage increase is dramatically offset by the reduction in healthcare benefits .It’s a non-starter for the negotiating team..

This week members of the rank and file of Local 2911 voted unanimously to authorize a strike if necessary. Glyptis said the vote is another tool to leverage a better deal for the workers, but he didn’t believe they were at a point where it was necessary to consider a work stoppage just yet.

“The hope from our negotiations team is to come back to our constituents with a fair contract,” said Glyptis. “One they can vote on.”

The negotiations resume Thursday in Pittsburgh.

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