Deadline looms over steel contract

August 30, 2012

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Thousands of steelworkers in Northwest Indiana are set to go on strike if a new contract cannot be worked out with two major steel producers. 

There hasn’t been a strike of steelworkers in Northwest Indiana since 1959. That streak could end by Sunday if a contract isn’t worked out between the United Steelworkers America (USW) and two companies -- ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel-maker based in Europe, and U.S. Steel based in Pittsburgh.  

Midnight Saturday is the contract deadline with both companies. Negotiations with both companies are happening simultaneously in Pittsburgh. Steelworkers at plants all along the southern tip of Lake Michigan are affected.

ArcelorMittal has more than 12,000 employees nationwide, with two-thirds in Northwest Indiana. Union officials are upset with ArcelorMittal over proposed wage reductions and benefits.

“As the clock continues to tick, ArcelorMittal continues to signal that it wants a confrontation. We have a comprehensive proposal on the table, one that allows for efficient and productive operations in our plants while protecting our hard-won rights on the job, and maintains the decent standard of living we believe steelworkers have a right to expect,” USW stated on his web site.  

“The company, on the other hand, continues to demand a laundry list of concessions and contract changes, including: A two-tier system where new employees have no pension, and are paid a lower wage for six years.”

In a statement, ArcelorMittal says it remains optimistic about reaching a fair and equitable contract. Negotiations with U.S. Steel, meanwhile, are said to be closer to a deal.