> The attached was released by the United Steelworkers of America today:
> For immediate release
> Some Progress Reported in Contract Talks Between Union and Kaiser
> USWA Criticizes Company Retiree Health Care Demands
> SPOKANE, WASHINGTON, November 11, 1999 -
> Contract talks between the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation and
> the United Steelworkers of America produced modest progress toward
> reaching a new labor agreement, Union negotiators announced today. The
> Union and Company have agreed to continue talks during the first two weeks
> of December.
> "Even though only modest progress was made during the past two days, the
> Union is committed to continuing the bargaining," said USWA District 11
> Director David Foster. "We have proposed that talks continue on specific
> key issues in the near future and we have agreed to set up dates during
> the first two weeks of December.
> Among the topics discussed during the two days of bargaining were work
> practices at the Kaiser Aluminum Mead, Washington facility and retiree
> health care benefits for current and future retirees.
> "The Company continues to demand that the Union agree to allow the Company
> to force pensioners to change their health care providers and/or begin
> paying monthly premiums," said Foster. "Retirees would no longer have any
> assurance that they would have the same health care benefits from one year
> to the next."
> "The level of benefits for employees who retired before 1994 are governed
> by Labor Agreements negotiated by the Company and the Union during those
> years," said Foster. "The Company wants us to tear up the agreements for
> those retirees and pretend like they didn't exist so it can change their
> benefits and force them into different plans."
> Under the Company's proposal, it would select a low cost health care plan
> each year and require retirees who wanted to maintain their previous level
> of benefits to pay the difference in cost between the two plans. The
> Company's proposal would also cut retiree benefits for employees hired
> after October 1998, and entirely eliminate retiree benefits for new
> employees after they reached age 65.
> "The Company claims that retiree insurance costs are a serious problem,
> but the fact is that Kaiser Aluminum's retirees health care expenses have
> declined over the last 5 years," Foster explained. "This isn't making the
> Company uncompetitive or preventing it from borrowing money to invest in
> its plants."
> "We want a Labor Agreement and an end to this lockout, but Kaiser insists
> that it be made on the back of these retirees," said Dan Russell,
> president of USWA Local 329. "These retirees are our family and friends.
> They broke us in, when we first started working."
> 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, 1999, the
> company locked out over 2,900 USWA members at its plants in Gramercy,
> Louisiana, Newark, Ohio, and Tacoma and Spokane, Washington.
> # # #
> For more information, contact David Foster at 612-623-8045 or Sam Thomas
> at 253-351-0511.
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