Steel union holds off on strike at ArcelorMittal

2012-08-31T20:15:00Z 2012-10-01T16:44:06Z Steel union holds off on strike at ArcelorMittalKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The United Steelworkers negotiating committee on Friday put out a notice for members at ArcelorMittal that it has not reached agreement on a new contract with the steelmaker but is not calling for a strike at this time.

With the current contract set to expire at midnight Saturday, the committee told members it does not know if ArcelorMittal will attempt to lock workers out but that they should report to work as usual.

"We are telling people go to work, and under the law we will work under the existing terms and conditions of employment," said Jim Robinson, United Steelworkers District 7 director and secretary of the ArcelorMittal negotiating committee.

An update put out by the negotiating committee Friday and published on the union's website said, "The 'terms and conditions of employment' are the terms of the old contract and the parties' past practices."

An ArcelorMittal spokesperson could not be reached for comment Friday.

Top issues for the United Steelworkers remain the two-tier wage system proposed by the company, health care and the undermining of seniority rights, Robinson said.

In an update published on the union's website Friday morning, the negotiating committee said ArcelorMittal had backed off its demand of no pensions for new hires.

In negotiations with U.S. Steel, which have generally been less contentious, a union spokesman in an emailed statement pointed to retiree health care as the most contentious issue still on the table.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone on Friday said the company was providing no comment on the negotiations.

The union's contract with U.S. Steel also expires at midnight Saturday.

United Steelworkers spokesman R.J. Hufnagel said the union was not going to turn its back on retirees but also recognized the reality that so-called "legacy costs" are rising. He said the union is committed to working with the company to come up with a solution.

"Whatever that solution is, it has to include access to low-cost, high-quality health care for our retirees," Hufnagel said.

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