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MANA union plan to reject final labor deal

Jun 28, 2013 | 07:21 PM |

Tags  Max Aicher North America, MANA, threaded bar, David Cameron, Rolf Gerstenberger, U.S. Steel, union, Hamilton mill United Steel Workers

NEW YORK — United Steel Workers union Local 1005 intends to reject Max Aicher North America’s (MANA) final contract offer early Saturday morning, a union official said, preventing the mill from possibly restarting in the next few months.

The union voted down the same offer on June 6 with a 73-percent majority (, June 7), and later presented a counteroffer to the company, which MANA rejected, USW Local 1005 president Rolf Gerstenberger told AMM. MANA then sent back its same final offer with the condition that the workers will be locked out starting June 29 if it is rejected, Gerstenberger said, noting that the union does not intend to accept the offer.

"We’re not doing that. None of our members have even told us, ‘Let’s vote again,’" said Gerstenberger. "We didn’t even want to vote" the first time, he said.

The contract would reduce wages by $8 to $10 an hour and eliminate the pension plan and a cost-of-living plan, according to Gerstenberger—cuts he said the union workers are unwilling to accept.

But the company maintains such a contract is key if the mill is going to ever restart.

"This new agreement is pivotal to our ability to develop a world-class bar mill here in Hamilton," MANA chief financial officer David Cameron said in a statement. "Currently we have no collective agreement and the bar mill is not operating."

MANA’s Hamilton, Ontario, facility is a 300,000-ton-per-year threaded bar mill that has faced a number of supply and labor issues since it was bought from U.S. Steel in 2010. The mill hasn’t rolled steel since September 2011, and it laid off the last of its unionized workers in December. Management and Local 1005 have been negotiating MANA’s latest collective agreement offer since late May.

Cameron said the cuts are necessary for the company to be economically viable.

"I believe we’ve explained to them through empirical data that the offer that we gave to them is a fair offer," said Cameron. "We’ve (made) a very fair and very competitive offer. I’m shocked and surprised that they’re willing to do this."

Cameron said MANA needs a labor contract in order to resume production and ensure investors and potential customers it can produce threaded rod at consistent level. If the union were to accept the offer, the company would begin maintenance work to restart the mill, which would begin production within the next three to four months, Cameron said (, May 29).

Gerstenberger said MANA is waiting for the former workers’ unemployment benefits to run out next month before making another offer, but Cameron said the next move has to be the union’s.

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