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Constellium officials offer new health, other benefits to employees

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials with Constellium Rolled Products said Thursday morning the company was "significantly enhancing its earlier offer" to a local steelworkers union. The offer is intended to keep steelworkers from striking at the Jackson County plant.

In a news release, Constellium officials said "the company's economic proposal includes wage adjustments, annual pay increases and an immediate $7,000 ratification bonus that now total more than $30,000 per person on average" over the five-year life of the contract.

The company's latest contract proposal also included "additional economic incentives like increases in life insurance amounts and sickness and accident benefits, and pension benefit improvements.

"The offer also introduces a new 90/10 healthcare plan beginning in 2014, with hourly employees paying monthly premiums in 2015 at rates about half of the national average," according to Constellium's statement.

Under the plan, employees would make 10 percent copays for most medical expenses.

Voting last Thursday and Friday, members of Steelworkers Local 5668, which represents 690 employees, overwhelmingly turned down a new five-year contract Constellium proposed for its aluminum rolling plant in Ravenswood.

The plant is still operated under a temporarily extended contract.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Randy Moore, sub-district director for the steelworkers union, said, "We issued a 72-hour notice to terminate the [temporary] contract extension.

"If nothing changes, if the company holds to their position and neither party gets back to the table, a work stoppage is more than likely," Moore had said.

Constellium's Thursday press release added, "Employee costs associated with the new health care plan are projected to average about $7,000 [annually] over the five-year contract, meaning that the average employee will realize a net gain from the contract of more than $23,000."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said, "These jobs and this plant are so important to this community and to the state. I've been in touch with both the company and the union to let them know my hope is that both sides will continue their discussions and try to work out their differences quickly and fairly."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also said that his office has been communicating with union and management representatives as the negotiations are ongoing.

Successful negotiations, Tomblin said, are important to more than 1,000 people who work at the plant and to the economy of Jackson County and the state.

"I strongly encourage both parties to continue working together to reach an agreement," Tomblin said. "I certainly hope that a work stoppage does not occur. I am committed to working with all those involved."

Constellium said its healthcare costs are already two-and-a-half times the national average, costing the company more than $18,000 a year for each of its hourly employees. The national average is about $7,500 in annual health care costs for each employee.

Constellium's chief executive officer, Kyle Lorentzen, said those health care costs "continue to hamper" the plant's economic recovery. The Ravenswood facilities had reported financial losses in 11 of the last 13 years.

"For a facility that has struggled and suffered significant losses in recent years, we believe this is a very reasonable offer," Lorentzen said.

"We know that change is difficult, but a strike would be very devastating, particularly for families and our community. It is unfortunate that the union is taking this path."

Headquartered in Paris, Constellium has 9,500 employees in 26 different countries. The company provides aluminum products to several industries, including: aerospace, mass transportation, automotive, packaging, energy, building and construction.

In 2010, Constellium products sold across the world netted $4.4 billion.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at plnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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