ArcelorMittal negotiations continue

WEIRTON — The United Steelworkers could be days away from taking a strike vote at ArcelorMittal plants in the United States, including ArcelorMittal Weirton.

That was the word in a Friday update from the union about the ongoing negotiations in Pittsburgh between the company and union on a contract covering 15,000 steelworkers in 13 locals in several states, including about 800 members of USW Local 2911 at ArcelorMittal Weirton.

The USW members in U.S. Steel facilities approved a strike in a vote on Thursday as talks are continuing with the steelmaker. A strike vote is an authorization to strike, not a guarantee of a strike nor the setting of a date and time for a strike.

The union said, barring significant progress by early next week, union presidents will return from the negotiating table to deliver detailed reports to their local membership and seek support for a strike authorization.

In the ArcelorMittal talks, a contract extension will expire tonight, but work is expected to continue. The two sides had continued after the expiration of the contract seven days ago with an extension and an agreement to provide each other with a 48-hour notice of a strike or lockout of workers.

The USW contends that business conditions have improved since the 2015 contract was negotiated and the industry no longer needs major concessions from its workers for its viability. The union termed offers for health care so far as “ridiculously inferior” and said the company has refused to make “meaningful improvements in wages or pensions while making concessionary demands on supplemental unemployment, incentive pay, vacation pay and a hot-rolled steel bonus.

If a strike authorization is given, it will be up to the negotiation committee to determine if a strike is necessary “only if other strategic alternatives to bring the company to its senses are unsuccessful” the union said in a web briefing Friday.

The company has said it is not at liberty to discuss topics being negotiated while negotiations are going on. Its last statement on its website regarding the talks was posted Aug. 31. The company said at that time it appreciates the USW’s willingness to continue working under current contracts while negotiations were proceeding.

USW Local 2911 at Weirton held a gate rally, along with other USW locals across ArcelorMittal on Aug. 30, calling for a fair contract.