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BusinessNorth: USW says U.S. Steel offer to steelworkers falls short

BusinessNorth — The United Steelworkers union said Wednesday night that a revised contract offer made by U.S. Steel earlier in the day “still falls short.”

In an update issued by its bargaining committee, the union called the proposal “another clumsy and bad-faith attempt to try to influence everyone’s first impression and undermine your bargaining committee.”

The proposal, which the United Steelworkers (USW) called “another big attention grabbing headline with a $19,000 figure at the top,” doesn’t include new money and results in worse health care coverage for steelworkers, according to the USW.

“Once again, the devil is in the details, and their proposal requires a close reading and thoughtful analysis,” stated the union.

U.S. Steel said the proposal includes a 14 percent base wage increase over six years, guaranteed profit sharing and health care premiums offset with transition payments.

“We have submitted a revised proposal to USW leadership that reflects the ongoing dialogue during our most recent round of negotiations,” said U.S. Steel in a media advisory. “The revised six-year proposal, which we strongly believe is in the best long-term interest of all U.S. Steel stakeholders, includes a 14 percent base wage increase over the term of the agreement, guaranteed profit sharing, and health care premiums offset with transition payments.”

However, the USW said U.S. Steel posted its proposal on the company web site Wednesday while the union was still reviewing it internally. A counter proposal is being prepared by the USW.

U.S. Steel, in an informal general outline released Wednesday, said the company is offering a 4 percent base wage increase effective Sept. 1, 2018, and 2 percent wage increases on September 1 of each year 2019 through 2023. The offer also proposes a $4,000 ratification bonus paid within 30 days of September 22, to bargaining unit employees accruing pension service as of Sept. 1, and $6,000 in guaranteed minimum profit sharing for the combined third and fourth quarters of 2018 paid within 30 days of Sept. 22.

Health care transition payments of $1,500 (lump sum) or $125 per month for the following calendar year, are proposed depending on an employees’ health insurance plan.

But the USW said the proposal includes an original $4,000 signing bonus, attempts to drive steelworkers to a high deductible health care plan, and eliminate steelworkers’ current health care.

The proposed health care plan doubles deductibles, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums compared to a current PPO plan, stated the union.

According to the USW update, a counter proposal that includes real wage increases, a reasonable contract term, leaving benefits alone, and pension issue fixes, is being prepared to “solve some of the problems caused by this blatant and bad-faith attempt to try to break this union.”

Negotiations started in July between the USW and U.S. Steel. Wages, benefits, pensions and health care costs for active members and retirees, are major issues.

More than 16,000 USW members from 24 local unions work at U.S. Steel facilities across the nation.

About 1,550 USW-represented workers at U.S. Steel’s Minntac Mine in Mountain Iron (Local 1938) and Keetac in Keewatin (Local 2660), are affected by the talks.

“Talks continue this week, and we continue to work diligently to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion,” stated U.S. Steel. “Our plants continue to operate in a safe and orderly manner.”

Steelworkers at U.S. Steel facilities across the nation have voted to authorize a strike if negotiations fail.

Contract negotiations are also underway between the USW, ArcelorMittal, and Cleveland-Cliffs. Steelworkers are continuing to work under contract extensions.