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Union official hopes Constellium talks resume next week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A United Steelworkers official said Thursday he hopes union and company representatives will return to the bargaining table next week in an effort to end a strike at Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood.

During a meeting convened by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday, "the company put another proposal on the table for the union's consideration," said Randy Moore, the United Steelworkers sub-district director in West Virginia.

"We have been poring over that thing since we got it," Moore said. "There are some things we are very interested to get back to the table to talk to the company about."

Laura Prisc, communications manager for Constellium, said the company was working on a statement Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday evening, Tomblin praised the company for making a revised proposal for a new five-year contract.

"That offer now lies in the hands of the local union representative committee," Tomblin said in a news release. "I believe [Wednesday's] discussions reinforce both Constellium's and the union's commitment to bringing this matter to a resolution."

"We greatly appreciate his concern and his leadership in helping get things moving along," Moore said of Tomblin. "He has stayed on top of this tirelessly and followed up with us where things are."

Wednesday's meeting, held at the Governor's Mansion, lasted from 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., Moore said. "Like a lot of other folks, [Tomblin] thought that people should get back together in the same room and have a little dialogue," Moore said.

After the initial meeting between both sides, union and company representatives spent most of the rest of the day in separate rooms involved in negotiations coordinated by federal mediators Bob Datillo and Clifford Crum, Moore said. "They earned their bacon yesterday," he said of the mediators.

Of the company's new proposal, he said, "We still have concerns but, as always, we remain optimistic we can work these things out.

"We're hoping to be able to get back with the company early next week and keep this process moving. In some ways, it looks like we are still far apart, but in other ways, we are very close. We need the company to stay and work with us."

About 1,000 people work at the plant. Of those, about 700 union employees went on strike on Aug. 5.

Changes Constellium wanted in health insurance coverage for its union workers, which would require them to pay more, were the major reason contract negotiations broke down, Moore and other union leaders have said.

Union negotiators say they have asked only for "modest wage increases" since 1994 to keep good health-care benefits.

Constellium's union workers make more than $2 an hour less than workers employed by other companies in the industry, according to the union.

On Thursday, Moore said, "We are trying to work on schedules right now. We are talking about getting back to the table early next week."

Before then, though, the union will hold a rally on Saturday at the USW Local 5668 union hall, south of Ravenswood. Speakers are scheduled to include Leo Gerard, international president of the USW, and Larry Matheney, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO.

The program -- which will feature other speakers and several bands -- will begin at noon and last until 5:30 p.m., Moore said.

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


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