According to Sam Rife, president of United Steel Workers Local 5171, the union contract expired on Nov. 10, and since then employees have been working under an extension with a 48-hour strike notice clause.
“We are trying to get more healthcare,” Rife said. “During our meetings, union members have stressed the importance of getting more family medical coverage.”
Rife said that the company previously promised to provide 100 percent medical coverage for union workers. The contract that is being negotiated provides for a 5 percent increase in coverage, added to the current 55 percent the company pays. Rife said even with that increase employees will still pay $94 to $160 per week for health insurance.
Felman officials were unavailable for comment, but a company employee, who declined identify herself during a phone conversation with the Register, denied the possiblity of a strike, stating, “what the union workers are talking about has no truth.” Felman has not provided any other information regarding contract negotiations.
Rife said safety issues and unsanitary working conditions at the Letart plant are also being discussed.
“OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has even visited the facility, along with our district director, to inspect the bad conditions in our bathrooms and shower facilities,” Rife said.
Rife said the company has made some progress in regard to the safety and sanitary issues, but claims that efforts still need to be made to meet the required conditions.
“If our healthcare is not increased, then our wages should be so we can meet the weekly payments,” Rife said. “Our wages are not comparable to other plants in the area.”
According to Rife, the outcome of a meeting this morning (Wednesday) between company officials and union leaders will determine whether a federal mediator will be called upon to settle the issue. He said this morning’s meeting will be the final negotiation before the union could call for a strike.
Felman Production, Inc., opened for business in September 2006, occupying the facility previously occupied by American Alloys. Felman Production is a sister company to New Jersey-based Felman Trading, Inc., which distributes ferroalloys in North America, Central America and South America.