After 19 weeks, labor peace and a pivotal step toward restructuring

Nov 11, 2005 | 07:56 AM | Sean Barry

A four-month strike at Asarco Inc. finally came to an end last week after union leaders and bosses at the embattled U.S. copper producer reached a tentative agreement that will see workers return to their jobs under the same terms and conditions that existed prior to the industrial action.

With both sides seemingly unable to settle the dispute, the breakthrough came when Asarco's creditors committee flexed its muscle and put pressure on the company, owned by Grupo Mexico SA de CV, to agree to the deal.

Representatives from the United Steelworkers union and the company inked the deal last Monday night, an extension of the existing collective bargaining agreement effective through the end of 2006, Asarco said.

The settlement includes a successorship clause that says a potential buyer of the company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Aug. 10, must recognize the union and agree to terms with it before any sale can be completed.

This had been the sticking point during negotiations, and the USW had walked away from talks in September when Asarco said it couldn't agree to the successorship clause.

Tucson, Ariz.,-based Asarco had argued that placing such a clause in the contract would ultimately devalue the company's assets.

"The creditors' committee waded in and was instrumental in convincing the company, creditors and the union that this agreement was in everybody's best interests," Terry Bonds, USW District 12 director, said. "It's vital the company gets back producing copper and making money."

The USW, which has a seat on the unsecured creditors' committee, had been pressing the committee to enter the fray and persuade Asarco to settle.....





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