Alcoa, union reach agreement

June 25, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.

PITTSBURGH - A new four-year labor agreement between the United Steel Workers union and Alcoa covering about 6,000 workers at 11 U.S. locations has been ratified in a secret ballot vote by the membership.

That includes the Point Comfort Alcoa plant.

The agreement provides for lump sum bonuses of $2,250 this year, $1,750 next year, general wage increases of 2.5 percent in each of the following two years, and a $2 per month per year of service increase in the pension multiplier.

During negotiations, Alcoa proposed a series of changes in health-care benefits, which would have dramatically shifted costs to employees through reduced coverage and higher employee premium amounts. Although the proposal was designed to appear to offer greater individual choice, in reality each of the options offered only poorer coverage and higher costs.

"Our members were adamant in the need for a single plan which provided everyone with access to high quality health care and protection against catastrophic medical bills," said USW District 7 Director Jim Robinson, who served as chief negotiator for the union. "The new contract does raise employee premiums, but they will still be much less than paid by Alcoa salaried and non-union employees.

"Alcoa was not only insisting on implementing a plan that would have required our members to pay much higher costs for a lower level of coverage, but Alcoa also wanted the right to set future costs and coverage at whatever levels the company deemed appropriate," he said.

The membership understood what was at stake and stood in solidarity, Robinson said.

Other issues important to the union were the preservation of long-standing seniority practices and the rejection of a two-tier pay and benefit proposal that would have been divisive to union members in the workplace, he said.

The agreement is retroactive to June 1 and expires on May 15, 2014.

The United Steel Workers is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector.



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