July 21, 2008

Latrobe Specialty Steel Contract Approved

By Joe Napsha

Steelworkers at Latrobe Specialty Steel Co. voted today to end their 81-day work stoppage by approving a five-year labor agreement.

The United Steelworkers Local 1537 voted to end the lockout 159- 150, with eight ballots voided. Workers will be required to pass a physical before being recalled beginning July 28, said Kevin Caruso, president of USW Local 1537, which represents 350 workers at the specialty steel plant.

Caruso said he was not surprised at the close vote. Although the negotiating committee brought the offer to a membership vote, Caruso said he did not make a recommendation on how to vote.

"I believe they are the only ones who can determine how to vote," Caruso said.

The contract gives the steelworkers a $6,000 lump sum payment this year and a $5,000 lump sum payment in 2009, plus a 50-cent-an- hour raise in the third year. The contract allows for negotiations in the third year on pay increases in the fourth and fifth years of the pact.

Steelworkers walked off the job May 1 after rejecting the company's contract offer. The state determined the strike became a lockout on May 9, when the company rejected the union's offer to return to the work under the condition that they give a 48-hour notice before another work stoppage.

The union and the company reached a tentative agreement Friday night, after an all-day bargaining session.

Latrobe Specialty Steel, which makes more than 350 grades of steel alloy for the defense and aerospace industries and the tool- and-die market, hired temporary replacement workers to continue production during the work stoppage.

"We have reached an agreement that enhances our competitive position. This agreement ensures five years of labor stability." said Hans Sack, president and chief executive of Latrobe Specialty Steel.

The temporary workers will be gone when the union members return to work, Caruso said.

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