For immediate release
Kaiser Strike Losses Unnecessary But Will Continue
USWA Responds to 4th Quarter Earnings Release
MINNEAPOLIS, January 28-Kaiser Aluminum's fourth quarter loss was totally
unnecessary and is further evidence of the company's misguided management,
union representatives said today in response to Kaiser's report that it had
suffered a net loss of $38.9 million and strike related costs of $50 million
during the fourth quarter of 1998.
"The company and its shareholders should know that this money was wasted and
could have been put to productive use upgrading Kaiser's plants, improving
the standard of living of employees and increasing shareholder value," said
David Foster, USWA District 11 Director and the union's chief negotiator
"The $50 million in strike costs dwarfs the cost of the union's proposal.
Had the company obeyed the law and negotiated in good faith with its
employees, it would have avoided the strike and made substantial profits
during the fourth quarter," he said.
"The company's decision to provoke this labor dispute and prolong it with an
illegal lockout has not only squandered $50 million, but risks $3.3 million
per week in back pay liability if the Union's unfair labor practice charges
are upheld," Foster added.
"If Kaiser is really serious about reaching a new labor agreement, investing
in our communities and increasing shareholder value, it should take this $50
million loss as a message: end this illegal lockout and send your
negotiators back to the table with orders to get an agreement," he said.
In response to company claims that these losses are one-time events that
will be worth it in the long run to the company and its shareholders, Foster
said, "The company has a choice. Kaiser can continue on the road to ruin by
running a makeshift operation staffed by unskilled, inexperienced temporary
replacements. Or it can negotiate for real productivity improvements with
its skilled work force.
"The company knows we are willing to address labor productivity issues, but
only as part of a fair contract that gives our members more job security and
minimizes the disruption for employees whose jobs are eliminated. But
instead of negotiating for specific reductions and safeguards for the
workers who made this company profitable, Kaiser has insisted on massive
layoffs and outsourcing of work," Foster said.
Although the company asserted that the $50 million loss would not continue,
Foster noted that Kaiser is still operating with three potlines idled at its
Tacoma and Mead, Wash., smelters.
"Kaiser is having enough trouble operating its smelters at a reduced level
with salaried employees and unskilled replacement workers. It will be hard
pressed to restart the idled potlines. Given the turnover among the
replacement employees, production losses and revenue foregone, these losses
will continue until USWA members are returned to work," Foster said.
As proof of the inexperience of Kaiser's replacement workforce, Foster noted
that the number of lost workdays at the company's Tacoma smelter has
increased by nearly 900% since the labor dispute began, according to OSHA
Kaiser also announced that it would write off $45 million of its investment
in its Sierra Micromill. "The write-off," Foster said, "is an admission
that the project was a failure. This is especially troubling for our members
since that capital investment could have been used to upgrade or expand the
company's existing facilities, which have long been starved for capital."
USWA members struck Kaiser Aluminum in response to the company's unfair
labor practices and substandard contract offer on September 30, 1998, and
offered to return to work on January 13, 1999. On January 14, the company
locked out over 2,900 USWA members at its plants in Gramercy, La., Newark,
Ohio, and Tacoma and Spokane, Wash.
# # #
Return to Home