NEW YORK ArcelorMittal USA Inc. remains "optimistic" about reaching a new contract with unionized workers by the end of the week, even as it has begun to take "precautionary" steps ahead of a possible labor disruption at its mills.
"As a precautionary measure and consistent with measures taken during past labor negotiations, ArcelorMittal has recently begun the process of taking asset preservation steps at its facilities should a work stoppage occur," a company spokesman told AMM in an e-mail.
Chicago-based ArcelorMittal "remains optimistic about reaching a fair and equitable contract with the USW without a work stoppage," he said, but added that it is making preparations regardless ahead of the Sept. 1 contract expiration.
Prior to the start of negotiations this spring, the steelmaker began highlighting changes in the industrynamely the rise of the mini-millthat have made it difficult for the integrated producer to remain competitive at its current cost structure. As a result, ArcelorMittal arrived at the bargaining table requesting a number of contract revisions, including reductions to wages and benefits (amm.com, June 11).
The company on Friday declined to comment on the negotiations themselves, citing "sensitivities of the negotiation process."
Meanwhile, the USW negotiating committee maintains that "little progress" was made in talks over the weekend.
"We still have a lot of ground to cover, but we believe that as long as you continue to stand united we can accomplish anythingincluding reaching a fair contract with this companydespite managements ongoing attempts to undermine our past progress and the future of our standard of living and working conditions," the union wrote Monday in an update to its members.