Union employees have been working under an extension of the previous contract since Nov. 10 when the old deal expired. The extension features a clause that allows the union to issue a 48-hour strike notice.
However, Sam Rife, president of the USW 5171, said that a strike will be the last resort for the union.
“The workers are still willing to negotiate,” Rife said. “As of right now, we have no intention of striking.”
There was talk of a strike last week before a federal mediator and the company’s lawyer joined the negotiation.
Workers and company officials met last Wednesday to settle the contract. As of Friday, however, no word deal had been reached and Felman officials gave no indication of when they would make a decision about the contract. This came as a surprise to workers, since, according to union officials, the company is usually quick with their negotiations.
Representatives for the company still have yet to provide a statement to the press, but one company employee, who would identify herself, said during a phone call to the company, “we have proposed several offers; none which the workers agree to.”
Rife believes a decent contract will come out of this long debate and he hopes that it will be one the workers benefit from.
“We want something that everyone is happy about,” Rife said.
So far, the company has offered a 45-cent per hour raise, but workers would like an additional five cents. Also, union members want the company to reinstate a $400 signing bonus that was not included in the first contract offer that the union rejected.
In regard to employee pensions, the company has agreed to pay 25-cents for each employee for the steelworkers’ pension plan. Rife added that during the first year, the union requested that wage, pension and insurance remain open for discussion.
Family medical coverage remains most important issue to the union members. They are still asking for 100 percent coverage, as promised by the company at one time, according to union officials.
Rife does not know when Felman officials will respond to the most recent union proposal, but did state the extension contract has no time limit.