| No vote on U.S. Steel offer: Union
John Rennison/The...The Hamilton Spectator...Stelco contractPensions are at the heart of the current contract dispute. The company wants to close the existing defined benefit plan to new hires, putting them instead into a defined contribution scheme. Other demands include reduced vacations and a cut to retiree benefits.
Steelworkers president Rolf Gerstenberger says his union is not likely to vote on a final offer presented by U.S. Steel Thursday night.
U.S. Steel made a new offer to 900 Hamilton workers facing a potential lockout at midnight Friday.
But Local 1005 United Steel Workers president Gerstenberger said Friday morning he can’t see taking the details to the membership because nothing has changed.
Gerstenberger said the two major concessions the union has fought against – removing indexing on pensions and limiting pension accessibility for any new hires – have not changed.
Gerstenberger said he has no idea whether the situation will come to a lockout at midnight.
The union has not taken a strike vote, he said, adding steelworkers would like politicians at all levels of government to object to a lockout.
In a brief news release Thursday evening, the company said it has sent “a full and final contract offer” to members of Local 1005 of the United Steel Workers.
The union and company have been in contract talks since May, stalemated over company demands for sweeping concessions to the pension plans, cost of living formula and benefits programs.
“We are hoping this will go to a vote,” company spokesman Trevor Harris said in an interview.
While Ontario labour law allows for a forced vote on a final offer before a strike or lock out, Harris said the company’s latest proposal is being submitted through a provincial mediator.
“There are powers that can force a vote, but that is not what we have done,” he said.
Harris wouldn’t say how, or if, the company’s latest proposal differs from the position it has held throughout the talks: that the existing defined benefit pension plan must be changed to a defined contribution scheme, that maximum vacation time must be cut by two week and that the value of the cost of living allowance be reduced by 80 per cent
Without such changes, the company has said the Hamilton plant is uncompetitive. Workers at the Lake Erie plant were locked out for eight months from August 2009 to April of this year before giving the company the two-tiered pension plan it wants.
Local 1005 has asked for a stand pat settlement — no changes to the contract that expired in July
Harris was also coy about what would be needed to convince the company not to lock out the workers at midnight tonight when it is in a legal position to do so.
“We will take the circumstances as they arise and make the appropriate business decision at that time,” he said. “Reaching agreement on a successor labour contract is of critical importance to Hamilton Works and our employees.”
The Hamilton plant has been silent since early October after the company idled the last blast furnace although no employees have been laid off.
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