WEIRTON - Steelworkers in Weirton and at 13 other ArcelorMittal locations across the country have ratified a new, three-year labor agreement giving them a 4.5 percent pay raise spread over the life of the contract plus guarantees the company will reinvestment in its mills.
The deal also cements health care coverage for retirees and improves coverage for active workers.
"I think it's fair for the membership and fair for the company as well," United Steelworkers Union Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis said. "We have an educated workforce and they understand you need a strong company to maintain long-term benefits. Obviously, there was strong support for the contract."
The ballots were counted Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Glyptis said 94 percent of ArcelorMittal's hourly workforce nationwide voted to ratify the agreement. Locally, the percentage was even more overwhelming - 99 percent -"probably the highest in (Weirton's) history," he said.
Negotiations took almost 13 weeks, he pointed out, with the company initially demanding a $28 per hour reduction in wages and benefits, most of it in health care cuts. The company also had demanded a different pay scale for new hires, something the union adamantly opposed.
"Our new employees coming in will be negotiating (benefits) for future retirees," Glyptis said.
"If they came in at lower wages, that would be difficult they'd be less likely to negotiate good benefits for our future retirees."
Under the agreement, workers will receive a $2,000 lump sum payment within 30 days and another $500 payment in May 2014.
They'll also see a 2.5 percent pay raise on Sept. 1, 2013, and a 2 percent jump on Jan. 1, 2015.
But Glyptis said management "wanted a contract as bad as we did, and this contract is going to work well for our workers and retirees as well as the company."
USW International President Leo Gerard, meanwhile, credited "the unity and solidarity" of workers at the 14 ArcelorMittal locations with giving the negotiating committee "the leverage it needed to reach a fair agreement, despite the company's determined efforts to force major economic and contract language concessions until the very end."
USW District 1 Director Dave McCall, who chaired the negotiations, said the company's focus on short-term profits rather than long-term sustainability had "created many challenges at the table."
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